Haggerty: Time will determine success of Krejci deal

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Haggerty: Time will determine success of Krejci deal

BOSTON Was the three-year extension handed to David Krejci a good deal or a bad deal?

Its tough to say before it plays out, as the legions of people who decried the Tim Thomas contract extension discovered. But a three-year contract extension for the 25-year-old center that will take him through 2013-14 is certainly a complex deal with an entire army of pros and cons that would make Jimmy Fallon proud.

Krejci admitted to the world on Thursday that the negotiations on his next contract had weighed on his mind a little, and became an even heavier burden when he struggled out of the gate offensively.

I knew that my agent and Peter talked during the summer. I didnt know what was going on and it was obviously on my mind a bit. It was especially on his mind when things werent going my way at the beginning of the season. It got me thinking a lot.

But we got a deal done. Im happy to be here four more years and now I can just focus on hockey.

Krejci and the Bruins came to an agreement on a deal that will pay him 5.25 million annually, and make him the highest paid center on the Bs roster. Just behind that is Patrice Bergerons 5 million cap hit. Fittingly, the center put pen to paper in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon and then went on to have a three-point performance against the Leafs for his best game in nearly a month.

David is a special player and a special person. In todays hockey economy he might have been able to go somewhere else and get more money, but he didnt, said Peter Chiarelli. I think weve seen this with a bunch of players recently, so I think it speaks to his willingness and his wanting to be a part of a winning team and to help the team win.

I wont stop looking for ways to improve the team and I wont stop trying to sign our important players. Its part of the day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year perspective and Ill continue to use that approach.

But thats some of the knock on Krejci after racking up 19 power play points in his breakout first full season in the NHL, the playmaker hasnt been making enough plays on the man advantage. Hes also never approached the 22 goals and 73 points or the plus-37 mark to lead the NHL in the last two seasons. Hes being paid like a No. 1 center and will have the responsibilities that go along with that role, but hes never put up the numbers one expects of a franchise pivot.

Then again, Krejci has also turned into a quietly efficient two-way center that can handle other teams top lines. Hes also a big part of the center group thats leading the NHL in faceoff winning percentage, and has become a clutch performer when the stage gets big. He made a name for himself by shining during the Winter Olympics two years ago for his native Czech Republic, and led the Bruins with 12 goals scored during their run to the postseason.

In fact, Krejcis 44 points and 19 goals in 52 playoff games, along with a plus-18 rating in the postseason, might be one of the biggest selling points for the Bruins when it comes to a deal like this. It wasnt too long ago that the Bs could point to Krejcis injury and absence as the single-biggest reason they collapsed in the playoffs against the Flyers prior to the Cup.

For a franchise thats expected to be knee-deep in playoff runs for the foreseeable future, the Bruins need to retain as many proven playoff performers as they possibly can.

In looking at what David has done for the Bruins, hes been a very important contributor and has really developed his two-way game, said Chiarelli. Hes obviously a very good offensive player and we saw him shine during the playoffs last year. We saw what his loss meant to us the year before in the playoffs.

Hes done everything that weve asked and more, and hes a terrific offensive player. Were happy to have him on board for another three years.

The biggest bugaboos for Krejci and his three-year deal: consistency and salary cap issues. Krejcis most recent slump is the perfect example of the instances where the top line center will recede from the forefront of the action and seemingly become invisible on the puck. Hes not quite as strong or dominant as Pavel Datsyuk and his skating and shot are adequate for an offensive performer, but nothing stands out aside from his brilliantly creative mind.

When Krejci isnt playing with maximum effort and reasonable motivation, he tends to become a little more ordinary out on the ice than one would prefer for an offensive catalyst. That still happens far too often for a big money player, and its always a wise investment to give the big money and subsequently the big cap hit to players that exert the same kind of effort 82 games a season.

That doesnt even count the salary cap ramifications. The Bruins now have what Peter Chiarelli termed a surplus of top-six centers signed to long term contracts in Krejci, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Seguin is playing the wing for the time being, but he eventually projects to be a No. 1 center in the NHL for a decade plus and will be moving up from his rookie contract after next season.

I feel a team gets built from the back end and down the middle. To have a strong middle is obviously an asset in my mind, said Chiarelli. David is part of that and hes shown that he can play different types of games. Bergie has shown that he can play different types of games. Weve seen Chris Kelly now. Tyler can play center or wing. Weve got a lot of options there and weve got some good centers coming down the pipeline.

I think a logjam is probably not the proper word. I think its an excess of supply and Im happy to have it. The fact that these guys are compatible and can play together without having to play the 22 or 23 minutes that some top centers do play is a testament to all of them as a group.

If he continues to score at a point-per-game pace, that suggests he is going to make a boatload of money in his second contract following his three-year rookie deal. That could be a sticking point for the Bruins given the 10 million plus theyve already got invested in their top two centers.

But Chiarelli said thats a good problem for a team like the Bruins to find solutions for, and the three centers ability to co-exist and thrive together allowed him to pull the trigger on Krejcis deal. Theres also the absence of no trade clause protection in the first year of Krejcis contract, and very limited trade provisions over the remaining two contractual years.

Just another facet to a David Krejci deal that people are going to strongly disagree about until he either A) proves hes worth the dough like Tim Thomas did or B) flame out like Marco Sturm did after his extension.

The Bruins are banking on more of the former than the latter.

Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

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Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while looking forward to watching the Luke Cage Netflix series.

*The Cult of Hockey has no issues with yours truly ranking the Edmonton Oilers 29th out of 30 teams in my first preseason NHL power rankings.

*An interesting piece about Brian McGrattan and his battle with alcohol in his career as an NHL tough guy. I can honestly say having covered him a bit when he was in the Bruins organization that he was one of the scariest dudes I’ve ever talked to in an NHL dressing room. A nice guy, but very intense and always looked like he definitely enjoyed his work on the ice.

*Dennis Seidenberg hopped on with the Hockey Central crew today to talk about his new contract with the New York Islanders.

*PHT writer and Friend of Haggs (FOH) Mike Halford has Guy Boucher with some serious Dion Phaneuf love going on in Ottawa.

*Jack Eichel is oozing confidence and swagger in his second NHL season with Buffalo looking to make a big step up this season.

*Scott Burnside said that the World Cup of Hockey could be coming to an end tonight and I think most predict that it will with a little bit of an anticlimactic thud due to the sheer awesomeness of Team Canada.

*For something completely different: “Aleppo Moment” sounds like a great name for a rock band. Not so much for a Presidential candidate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

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With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

BOSTON – It’s not really ever a banner day for any red-blooded, red-light hating goalie when he surrenders four goals in a game.

But perhaps that bottom line is softened a little bit considering when it’s also the first game of the preseason. It may also be drastically mitigated by the fact, in this case, that it was the first time Malcolm Subban guarded the space between the pipes since taking a puck to the throat that fractured his larynx last February.

That traumatic injury left Subban unable to speak for days and gasping for air while being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

It was a tiny victory simply for the Bruins goalie prospect to be back on the ice at all and a much bigger one once Subban had made 31 saves while largely under siege in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old admitted a little rush in net while the Red Wings were buzzing all around him for 35 shots on net through his two periods of work, but there was also happiness at simply being to back and building up for another season in the Bruins organization.

“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, [I was] really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average last season in Providence. “But it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today like practice is a lot different than a game.

“In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play. That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up. Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. I’ve just got to keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”

The goals allowed showed some on defense, but also some of the rust in their goalie: Subban lost sight of the puck behind the net on the second goal and Steve Ott was able to fire a quick shot past him on the short side before he could recover his bearings. 

The third goal was also a post coverage issue with Luke Glendening scoring on a late-reacting Subban, which is usually one of his real strengths. So, there is work to be done, but Subban also shut down a number of breakaways in the second period behind a leaky defense and stopped over 30 pucks before he gave way to young goalie Dan Vladar.

That’s considered more than an honest night’s work in the first preseason appearance for any goaltender, and surely for one playing his first game in seven months.  

“I think it was [a good outing for Subban]. He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, you know,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “But overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us. He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, you know, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”

Perhaps most encouraging: the middle Subban brother made a key save at the end of the first period with a puck off his helmet after Detroit had scored twice in a span of 19 seconds.

The stop with Subban’s head gear was probably the best sign of the night that he’s over last year’s traumatic injury and there isn’t going to be any shell-shocked goaltender situation with him.

So, did the injury cross his mind even once during his 40 minutes of work?

“To be honest, no. I owe a lot of credit to my players and these guys on the team in practice and stuff. I really haven’t had to worry about [taking another puck to the throat], getting hit,” said Subban, who now wears a neck guard after eschewing that particular piece of equipment prior to the injury. You’ve got some pretty good shooters in here; pretty accurate shooters. But, yeah, to be honest, I never really thought of [the fractured larynx], it never came across my mind.”

One thing that’s definitely been on Subban’s mind in camp is his contract situation and knowing full well he’s in the last season of his entry-level deal with the Bruins as a former first-round pick. He now has both Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask in front of him in the NHL and he’s looking at a fourth straight season in the AHL with the P-Bruins.

It might have been a different story for the talented goalie prospect if he’d finished last season in the same hot streak he was enjoying at the time of his injury. Perhaps he’d be the guy prepping to be Rask’s understudy this season. Instead, the ill-timed larynx injury pushed the Bruins to opt for an established backup in Khudobin and sign him to a two-year deal that could conceivably lock Subban in Providence for a couple more seasons.

So, now Subban is playing for his future, whether it’s with the Bruins, or with another team looking for a young No. 1 goaltending prospect just now entering his prime after refining his technique and going through some character-building adversity.

“I had a hard summer of workouts and skating, so I feel good. I’m not going to hold myself short. I understand that this is my contract year and the last year of my contract, so I’ve got to have a good year regardless of where I am. I’ve just got to play awesome,” said Subban. “Obviously you want to sign again, and you want to be a part of the organization. You want to be a huge part of it and a valued asset.

“So, what I’m looking forward to proving right now is that the last three years helped me, and that I’ve improved since my first year, and that I want to be here [in Boston].”

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Subban within the B’s organization over the next season.

The Bruins regime that initially drafted him 24th overall back in 2012 is now gone. Subban still has value to an NHL team, particularly a Canadian one, scouring the market for a blue-chip goalie prospect. The organization is also going to be forced to expose a quality goaltender or two in the Las Vegas franchise expansion draft after this season. That could mean a new work address, or a new spot opened up within the B’s goalie depth chart, for Subban.

All of these could be possibilities for Subban, but it all starts with him pouring everything he’s learned over the past three years and dominating the AHL before he pushes for his first extended look at the highest level of hockey.