After an early playoff exit, the Bruins offseason is officially underway. One that promises to be an interesting and key one for the Bruins.
We already know pending unrestricted free agent Tuukka Rask will be out until either January or February as he expects to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.
The looming Seattle expansion draft is another hurdle to jump for NHL general managers, the Bruins and Don Sweeney no different.
Then, there’s the Bruins other two key UFA’s in David Krejci and Taylor Hall, two thirds of the Bruins dynamic second line.
While the line failed to produce much five-on-five in their second-round series with the New York Islanders, Hall, Krejci and Craig Smith provided the Bruins with a much-needed scoring punch for most of their time together following Hall’s trade out of Buffalo.
Prior to Hall’s arrival, Smith moved up and down the lineup, playing with different linemates on the regular. He finally found a partner in Krejci, the two catching fire and building chemistry prior to the trade deadline.
But when Hall came in, the skill of Hall changed the dynamic of the line and made them a scoring threat at five-on-five anytime their names were called.
Hall was the line’s missing puzzle piece. Now, Smith hopes that both Krejci and Hall are back next season, allowing them to hopefully pick up where they left off and getting more comfortable as a line together.
"To be honest, I just came in — I didn't care who I played with and where I ended up. I ended up playing with Krech [Krejci] and Hall and I hope they come back. We had a great run there, and I had a lot of fun playing with those guys,” said Smith.
“On and off the ice, they're just tremendous people and two of my favorite teammates I've had over the past decade. I hope they come back. Those types of things are out of my hands, but moving forward, it'd be nice to see them again.”
It’s been clear from the moment Hall was acquired by the Bruins that he wants to remain in Boston and the Bruins want him here.
"Nothing's changed since the last time I talked about this. But yeah, I see a fit and hopefully they feel the same. We'll let the dust settle on everything this year, I'm sure they have a lot of stuff going on and some other guys that have been here longer than me that they have to worry about,” said Hall.
“Then we'll figure that out, but hopefully we can make something work. That's my goal and like I said, hopefully we can make that happen.”
If winning over another big pay day is truly Hall’s priority, then Boston is the perfect fit for him. While the Bruins core is clearly aging, they’ve still been a playoff team year in and year out, something Hall has not been a part of from year-to-year.
According to Cap Friendly,
Hall has an estimated career earnings of just over $52M.
“I don't even know what my value is, at this point. I feel like I had two different seasons. I'm not looking to absolutely maximize my value at this point in my career,” Hall added.
“I've been fortunate enough to make some good money in this league, and at this point, it's about more of a fit for me than maybe money, or a long-term thing. You want to find a home for the next few years here and we'll see what happens.”
As open and clear as Hall was about his future, Krejci’s future is a little bit more uncertain. While Krejci said much of the right stuff in Friday’s end-of-the-season availability, at times his body language told a different story.
“I’ve obviously thought about it a lot, not just the last couple of days but the whole season, pretty much. I'm not going to give you an answer right now. I’m going to need a few weeks, think about lots of things. Talk to lots of people. I love Boston. We’ll see what happens,” said Krejci.
“But again, I love Boston. This is my home. I just don't see myself playing anywhere else. But at the same time, we'll see what happens.”
Krejci has made it known in the past that he wants to finish his professional hockey career back home in the Czech Republic.
While the desire to do so has not changed, Krejci has yet to decide if that is something he wants to do now or play it out in the NHL for a few more seasons.
“You guys write a lot that I wanted to finish my career in Czech, which has not changed. But when I said that, I was younger. I’m a husband. I’m a dad, I have two kids. They’re getting older. So yes, I still, at one point, would like to finish my career in Czech – for different reasons now than when I first said it,” said Krejci.
“But again, when that's going to happen, or if that's going to happen, we'll see. I’m going to try to get away from the game a little bit now and think about lots of things. Spend some time with my family and just go from there.”
Krejci too went on to reveal his next contract won’t be based off money, more of what is right for he and his family.
Even at 35, Krejci is still a productive player and an important piece to the Bruins second line. Charlie Coyle does not appear he’s ready to fill Krejci’s spot as the team’s number two center behind Patrice Bergeron.
Prospects like Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic have not developed like the Bruins have hoped and may not even be ready for third line center duties this season, never mind the second line.
If money is truly not what Krejci is after in this next contract, it makes sense for both sides to have Krejci return in Boston for what is likely this core’s last kick at the can.
“Today, I can tell you, it's not going to be about money. And at the same time, I just can't see myself playing for a different team,” said Krejci.
“We'll see what happens I guess. I don't even know. I talked to my parents, and they asked me, I can’t even give them a straight answer. I just don't know right now. I just don’t know.”
Of course, Hall and Krejci saying one thing and following through on it are two different beasts. But Sweeney has to be licking his chops after hearing what they had to say Friday.
Sweeney and company enter the offseason with the ball in the Bruins court in regard to their three key UFA’s.
Rask is out until early 2022 and Hall and Krejci both say they want to remain in Boston, money not their priority.
Cap space saved all around for Sweeney.
Now, what he does with potential money saved on the three is a story for another day.