If it turns out the NHL can’t finish the 2019-20 season, that means we’re already in the unofficial start of the off-season. Whenever that officially hits, all sorts of questions still unanswered will start to become clear. From how the draft lottery and draft will work, to the league-wide financial impact on the salary cap.
The latter will be of great interest to the many free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, who were scheduled to be up for new deals this summer. Taylor Hall is the biggest forward name and goalies such as Jacob Markstrom, Braden Holtby and Robin Lehner will potentially be available. And there are a number of good blue-liners whose contracts are scheduled to expire. Alex Pietrangelo may be the biggest star among those players, but Boston’s Tory Krug – who was one point shy of his fourth consecutive 50-point season before the pause – would be a huge get for anyone seeking a puck-moving defenceman.
An undrafted free agent signing out of Michigan State, Krug has played seven seasons in Boston and recorded the second-most average time on ice for the team in 2019-20. He’s more than lived up to the four-year contract he signed in 2016 that came with a $5.25-million cap hit and would seemingly be in line for another raise. However, the league’s financial uncertainty following the COVID-19 crisis and the fact Boston already had $61.2 million committed to next year’s roster may get in the way of this being a simple extension.
“We haven’t had any talks since this thing started,” Krug said about his contract negotiations with Boston in a video conference call on Tuesday.
“I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin. It’s been a place for me and my family to grow and my love for the game and playing in front of these fans has been very special to me,” Krug continued. “But (the paused season) hasn’t given me any clarity. I think if anything it’s made me wonder about this process a little more because I was just in the moment and playing games to help my team win and hopefully push us in the right direction to win a championship and now, with the season pause, I’ve definitely wondered about what’s going to happen. But in terms of clarity, there pretty much has been none.
“I can only guess things are going to look a little different from a salary cap perspective next year and team structures as well are going to be affected by that.”
Like the rest of us, Krug is self-isolating at home and, like the rest of the NHL players, he’s doing his best to keep in shape to be ready in case the league decides it is safe to resume the 2019-20 season. Krug, who has been to a Stanley Cup Final with the Bruins, echoed the sentiment a lot of players have shared recently that maintaining the season’s integrity is of the utmost importance.
He was open to the idea of playing in front of empty arenas, or to the idea that the rest of the year could wrap up in a neutral site such as North Dakota, as reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Sunday night. As long as everything is safe and fair, of course.
“For me, I think it’s just a fairness thing,” Krug said. “As long as everyone’s in a situation where the playing field is level and we’re all able to compete for a Stanley Cup that’s our ultimate goal…
“It’s almost a great opportunity to get creative and see what we can come up with.”