The Bruins have reaped plenty from a great generation of players drafted and developed within their system, and now they’re beginning to pay the amount past due. The high cost of keeping the Black and Gold nucleus together continued on Wednesday as the B’s and playmaking center/playoff stud/top line center David Krejci agreed to a six year, $43.5 million contract extension that will take the 28-year-old through the 2020-21 NHL season. It also locks up the B’s top two center tandem – a key part of their roster construction – for the next seven years as both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are signed for the foreseeable future.
The extension was first reported by Czech media outlet hokej.cz through Krejci’s manager in Europe, Jiri Hamal, as “more than $43 million” that was eventually broken down as (7.25M,7.25M,7.5M,7.5M,7M,7M) with a no-movement clause in the first four years of the deal, and a limited no-trade in the final two years of the contract.
Krejci’s contract represents a big piece of Boston’s financial picture, and allows the Bruins to make other moves to begin removing themselves from a currently bleak salary cap situation.
The Bruins are bumping up against the salary cap already this season with the Torey Krug and Reilly Smith contracts still unfinished, and have locked up $54 million in just 11 players for the 2015-16 season. While the Krejci contract extension isn’t in effect for this coming season with a $7.25 million cap hit that tops all B’s players, it does give Bruins management team cost certainty for their best players.
It also gives Krejci peace of mind when the crafty, clever pivot seemed to have trouble focusing in the walk year leading into his last contract extension, and that hastened the three year, $15.75 million deal signed in the middle of the 2011-12 season. Hammering out a deal more than a month prior to opening night takes any potential for distraction out of the equation for B’s alternate captain.
Krejci slots in just ahead of fellow centers like Paul Stastny and Jason Spezza at more than $7 million per season, and the Bruins don’t pay the premium climbing toward $8 million per season that’s being paid to elite names like Claude Giroux and Eric Staal. It’s difficult to find offensively gifted No. 1 line centers like Krejci that have fully bought into playing two-way hockey, and routinely sacrifice offensive numbers in the name of winning hockey games.
Krejci had arguably his most consistent regular season in 2013-14 with 19 goals, 69 points and a plus-39 rating, and even garnered a few Selke Trophy votes for his renewed attention to the defensive zone. He’s also willingly sacrificing ego in the name of team with a long term commitment to the Black and Gold. It’s no secret that Krejci would enjoy playing in the final minute of tight hockey games, taking all of the big face offs and playing big minutes in all situations, but some of that isn’t going to happen as long as No. 37 is the NHL’s best defensive center.
It’s that willingness to subjugate ego and self interest in the name of the group that has characterized the Bruins rise to the top of the NHL heap over the last seven years, and it’s no coincidence that Krejci is showing that very trait once again. He’s being paid handsomely as the highest paid Bruins player in AAV (average annual value) over Tuukka Rask ($7 million per season), Zdeno Chara ($6.9 million per season) and Bergeron ($6.5 million per season).
But it’s no exaggeration to say that Krejci left some money on the table to remain in Boston with contract numbers reaching skyward right along with the NHL’s ascending salary cap. The reputation as a playoff point machine and a durable front line center is no secret around the league, and teams would have lined up for a chance at No. 46 if he ever entertained leaving Boston.
The Bruins have some serious cap issues to reconcile as they continue to lock down their nucleus of talented, successful players, but that’s a challenging byproduct of the championship team Peter Chiarelli has built in Boston.
Now he has to find a way to keep it all together while steering clear of the salary cap jail that seems to plague nearly all Stanley Cup-winning teams.