On March 11, Torey Krug was still on course for his biggest payday ever, one he’d been working toward his entire life as a hockey player. On March 12, when the league suspended play indefinitely because of the coronavirus outbreak, all of that changed.
What lies ahead for him is anyone’s guess.
The Bruins defenseman was set become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 when the world as we knew it ceased to be — including the tiny aspect of it that is the business of the National Hockey League. While it’s not clear how much progress had been made between Krug and the Bruins on a potential new deal, the D-man said nothing’s been going on in that regard since the NHL hit the pause button.
“It’s a good question and probably one a lot of people would like an answer to. We haven’t had any talks since this thing has started. I haven’t spoken to any other UFA (unrestricted free agent) that’s been in a position like I am but in terms of my situation here in Boston, we haven’t continued any talks or made any progress in that regard,” said Krug on a video conference call earlier this week.
Krug, at 28, is in his prime. He’s one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league and has built himself into a legitimate top-four defenseman on an elite team. Whether he was going to re-sign with the Bruins — a possibility one could surmise is only getting more unlikely given the financial hits the league and teams are taking — or move on to another team, Krug had been in a position to ink a long-term deal in the range of $7 million to $9 million per season.
Now, who knows? Even a strategy for signing his contract is in question. Usually this would be a time to hit it big for a player in his position, but — given the financial uncertainty — would it be better to gamble on himself on a one-year deal until things get back to normal?
Krug has plenty of time to think about it, and no answers.
“There are so many unknowns and you can control only so much of that. For me personally, I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin,” said Krug, who is in his home state of Michigan at his in-laws’ house. “It’s been a place for me and my family to grow. My love for the game and playing in front of these fans has been very special for me. (The situation) hasn’t given me any clarity. If anything, it’s made me wonder about this process a little bit more.
“I was just in the moment and playing games trying to help my team win and hopefully push us in the right direction to win a championship. And now with the season paused, I’ve definitely wondered about what’s going to happen but in terms of clarity there pretty much has been none.
“From a business perspective,” he continued, “I can’t put any assumptions on it but I can only guess that things are going to look a little different from a salary cap perspective next year and team structures are going to be affected by that as well. I have no clarity and I wish I had a better answer, but that’s just the reality of the situation.”
If the league has its way, Krug has not played his last game for the Bruins. It remains hopeful that some semblance of a playoff can be played and the Stanley Cup can be awarded. The idea of staging the playoffs in August and September has been floated, perhaps at neutral sites and without fans.
Krug, of course, would love an opportunity for the Bruins, one of a handful of favorites, to play for the Stanley Cup. But he stressed that the league and the players have to be smart about it.
“Look, we all want to get back to play,” said Krug. “Most players I think feel a little bit lost in this situation. But I think first and foremost, we have to park that and put that aside and realize that there’s something bigger here. And if we do have the opportunity to get back to playing, let’s be safe about it and be smart. Whether that’s the health and safety of the players in terms of jumping back into intense hockey, from our bodies’ standpoint, or just continuing the social distance cues we’ve been given and the guidelines in that regard, no one wants to jump into a situation where we put a bunch of people in one area and all of a sudden this thing takes off again.”
And while Krug is open to out-of-the-box concepts for restarting the season, he doesn’t want any form of play resumption to be something that could be viewed as a farce.
“For me, I think it’s just a fairness thing, 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,” said Krug. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out. None of us will. It’s almost a great opportunity to get creative and see what we can come up with.
“But in terms of restoring the integrity of the game,” he continued, “we’ve got to make sure we’re not doing anything crazy that we can’t look back on and hang our hats on and be proud of what we were able to do under these circumstances. But the integrity of the game is extremely important to not only the league but also the players. It’s something we’ve discussed as well. We want to make sure it’s fair and it resembles something close to what we’ve had in the rich history of this game.”
I don’t know what I would recommend, but I just hope we can get back to playing and have a chance to win a cup, because this group we have in Boston is special and I think there are a lot of other teams around the league that feel the same way.”
And it could be Krug’s last kick at the can in Black and Gold.