Peter Chiarelli has a pretty simple plan of attack when it comes to re-signing his players: He targets those he finds important to the team’s future, and he generally gets extensions done well before some other team can vie for their services.
On Thursday, it was David Krejci who joined the likes of Rich Peverley, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron as core players Chiarelli re-upped before the expiration of their current deals. The first-line center cashed in with a three-year, $15.75 deal that will keep him in town through the 2014-2015 season and provides a bit of clarity regarding how much the B’s will have to spend when some of their other key players see their deals expire.
Now, unless something crazy happens, Krejci will be the second-highest paid player on the Bruins at the start of next season. Rightfully so, Zdeno Chara has the largest salary cap hit on the Bruins at $6.916 million a year, but time will tell whether Krejci will provide the Bruins with the biggest bang for their buck.
Krejci’s been a big-name in Boston for some time now, and now he’s gone from being well-paid ($3.75 million) to being one of the Bruins’ big money players. With that might come expectations for him to perform like some of the elite No. 1 centers throughout the league.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Krejci said. “I’m going to go out there and do my best and help the team to win. I know what I can do, people know what I can do, so I’m just going to stay away from reading good or bad things and just focus on my game — I think that’s the only thing I can control.”
While Krejci doesn’t need to worry about where things stand financially, the Bruins do. By signing his center, Chiarelli took care of the team’s biggest question mark for the coming offseason, removing him from a long list of players currently in the final season of their contracts.
With Krejci now signed, Tuukka Rask becomes the lone marquee name among the Bruins whose deals are set to expire at season’s end. The 24-year-old netminder will be a restricted free agent, while Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk will all be unrestricted. Benoit Pouliot will also be restricted.
Using numbers from capgeek.com and doing some arithmetic, the Bruins would have somewhere around $12.25 million (not counting the $4.017 million they could save if they put Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve) in potential spending money at season’s end. Note that the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire next September, so the salary cap could be different.
Even so, one would have to imagine that both Rask (currently making $1.25 million) and Kelly ($2.125 million) will command raises at season’s end. Dougie Hamilton’s readiness will likely determine how they go about addressing Corvo and/or Boychuk, but now that the B’s have committed big money to Krejci, they’ll have to be careful about spending this coming summer. The reason? The next summer.
Though Tim Thomas’ $5 million cap hit will come off the books at the end of next season, the Bruins have some big-name (and potentially big-money) players who will be without deals at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Think Tyler Seguin, (restricted), Milan Lucic (restricted), Brad Marchand (restricted), Tyler and Nathan Horton (unrestricted). That’s a lot of money for a lot of important players, and with the future of the CBA so uncertain, it’s hard to tell how, or if, the B’s will be able to retain them all.
“We do have a preliminary kind of framework we try and fit our roster under. That’s impacted by the uncertain future,” Chiarelli said Thursday. "In an ideal world, you’d like to have everybody back and have everybody happy, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I’d like to try and make it happen, but we’ll see how the rest of the year unfolds and what happens with the CBA.”
There may have been a time when Krejci could have been perceived to be a guy who would fit in the, “I don’t know if that’s going to happen category.” With Seguin clearly a top-six forward, and a natural center at that, the B’s could have let Krejci’s deal expire and then explored the trade market so they could get cheaper assets and save their money for eventual big deals for the likes of Seguin and the others.
The fact that they didn’t go that route says something big: It says that Chiarelli truly likes Krejci as a No. 1 center and believes that though the Czech hasn’t been able to repeat his 73-point 2008-09 season, he thinks the best is ahead of him. Krejci thinks so too.
“I think I’m still young and my game can grow in every situation. I can get better. I’ve got to get stronger, faster, get a better shot,” Krejci said. “I’m just 25 and maybe my best years are still in front of me, so I won’t stop working. I’ll keep working on my game and try to get better every day.”