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.

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.