The Bruins head into this summer’s Return to Play with plenty of question marks about how it’s all going to turn out attempting to complete the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. But there are question marks beyond that as well, with several key contracts ending once this postseason has been completed by the Black and Gold.
Torey Krug is set to become an unrestricted free agent and the offensive-minded D-man could be the most coveted defenceman on the market should he get there. Jake DeBrusk is a restricted free agent and will be looking at a big raise in his second contract after averaging 20 goals per season as a top-6 guy during his first three years in the NHL.
The two players combined will easily command over $10 million per season with their next contracts, and the Bruins will have to figure out new contracts for Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk and Anders Bjork among others. Complicating matters will be a flat salary cap for at least the next couple of years at $81.5 million with a chance it might go up a nominal amount in the third subsequent season after the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a CBA extension earlier this week.
It will be interesting to see just how much the market corrects for a player like Krug that could have been looking at a payday in the $8 million per season range, and whether or not a player like him would take a shorter deal to remain in Boston and wait out the financial fallout headed for all of pro sports over the next couple of seasons.
Don Sweeney wouldn’t rule out negotiating deals with those potential free agents while Phase 3 and 4 roll out over the next few months, but also cautioned that the Bruins weren’t going to be “overly aggressive” given how much is still unknown about the way player contracts will be impacted moving forward.
“I’ve never stated that we’d never have conversations, so ultimately I think we’ll have [contract discussions] case-by-case. I’m not going to be overly aggressive as we get into Phase 3 getting ready to play and then into the playoffs. But if something makes sense then we’ll do it. If there are some players that are very particular and don’t want to have those conversations until we’re done [with the games] then I respect that as well,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney during a zoom call with reporters on Sunday.
“I think I’ll just touch base with each and every one of [the free agents], and that includes RFAs that want to know where they’re going to be. There will be some conversations that will take place in terms of how we’re going to position contracts and how we’re going to structure contracts, and how you fit it together. Ultimately, we’re all going to have the $81.5 million for the next two years. We’re going to start to have conversations.
“We’ve had to run simulations and still [get to a place] where we’re treating every player fairly from a compensation standpoint. But we have some decisions to make and we may have to make some hard decisions just like every other team in the league now that we have the parameters of the cap and how the mechanisms of the new CBA are going to work.”
Those “hard decisions” could mean they have to decide between Krug and DeBrusk when finding a way to get under the cap for next season, though it should be noted that the Bruins have a lot of cap space opening up two seasons from now when the current deals for both Tuukka Rask and David Krejci (almost $15 million in cap space) will be off the books.