I’m on the record here. I don’t believe that Boston Bruins defenseman, 29-year-old unrestricted free agent-to-be and Livonia native Torey Krug is coming to Detroit this “summer” (see: October or November).
Yes, the “Krug to Detroit” scenario makes sense from a Red Wings fan perspective. Hometown kid comes to Yzerman’s Wings to revive the franchise, etc. etc.. If Krug sacrifices a couple of his “prime years” to Red Wings rebuild, so be it! The Red Wings have always nurtured Cup years out of older players, right? Forget the “championship window” not aligning!
The Torey Krug who spoke to the Boston media on Thursday is a Krug who doesn’t sound like he’s interested in coming to Detroit on a short-term, moderate-money contract–the only kind of deal that makes sense for Detroit, as The Athletic’s Max Bultman suggested.
Instead, it sounds like Krug is interested in making the best business decision he can so that he maximizes his value, and maximizes his window of winning championships.
Let’s examine Krug’s comments to the Boston media on Thurdsay, per his end-of-season Zoom appearance:
What does he feel about the concept of winning “now?” That’s easy. He said this to CLNS Boston’s Evan Marinofsky:
“I think I’ve seen something before where I’m the longest tenured Boston athlete without a championship and that’s extremely frustrating because every year here, there’s a team that’s going on a run or winning a championship and you want to be part of that culture, that group of athletes that brings athletes to the city,” Krug said. “It’s part of it. The two finals, haven’t been able to come through now, both seemingly ended with extreme disappointment, being so close yet feeling so far away from getting it and then you have to restart from ground zero just to do it all over. The energy and the amount of time and the people required to go on a long run like that — it’s tough to manage and tough to put it together again.”
Marinofsky notes that finding any Cup championship-worthy fit for Krug isn’t easy…
It is extremely tough to put that all together again and it’s no longer a guarantee that will happen for him in Boston. It’s also tough to envision other Krug destinations becoming Stanley Cup contenders while he’s still in his prime. Most competitive NHL teams don’t have a lot of freedom to make moves due to the flat cap.
The one team who has the space and personal connection to sign Krug is the Detroit Red Wings. Krug is a Michigan native and the Wings have roughly $34 million in cap space this offseason. Yes, they may not be competitive for the next few years. But head coach Jeff Blashill could play an essential role in luring the offensive dynamo back home — he was the one who gave Krug his first shot in the USHL with the Indiana Ice.
NESN’s Logan Mullen noted that “fit” is important to Krug, but so is money:
“I think (fit) weighs heavily on any decision an athlete can make. If you don’t consider that I think you’re foolish. But for me it’s very important,” Krug said. “I think you can make all the money in the world and have all the security in the world, but if you’re not comfortable in the situation, you’re not happy, then every day is going to be tough to get up and excited to show up to work and give it all. … It’s a big part of the decision. Obviously I’ve made it well-known that I feel very comfortable in Boston. I like my role here, I’m comfortable with the coach and I love my teammates.”
The NHL, like every other league, is in an interesting spot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial losses have resulted in the salary cap staying at the same figure ($81.5 million) for at least next season.
Teams might be wary of throwing big money around, which has led to speculation that maybe players like Krug would take a one-year deal in hopes of there being a clearer and more optimistic financial outlook next year.
Don’t count on it.
“I’m very opposed to that,” Krug said. “I’ve bet on myself and I’ve taken shorter-term deals and less amount of money my whole career now, so this is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I have the ability and I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it. So yeah, I’m very opposed to something like that. I’ve done it long enough now and that’s the situation I’m facing.”
Krug has a dog named “Fenway,” but he told WEEI’s Scott Laughton that the free agent process is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a lot of money, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set himself up for a couple more championship runs:
“I’ve spent my whole adult life, my whole professional career here in this organization and city,” Krug said. “I’ve done seemingly everything that they’ve asked of me. I’m proud of that. I’ve put all my energy into trying to help this team win games and win championships. We’ve come close twice now and unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for us. But I’m a big believer that there’s a journey for all of us, and whether it’s here or somewhere else, I’m not too worried about it or anxious about it.
“But yeah, there’s an emotional attachment. That’s a mistake that a lot of athletes get caught up in when they start their professional careers, is there’s nothing personal about it. It’s business on both ends. Teams have to put the best team forward, spending certain amounts of money, and athletes have one shot at making all their money in their career, whether you play one, two, three years in the league up to 10-15 years. You have one shot to do it all, and I realize that. It is what it is, but there definitely is an emotional attachment. There’s no secret. I’ve been very outspoken about it. My teammates know it, everyone knows it, so yeah it’s part of the business. It stinks, but we’ll see what happens moving forward.”
One of the teams that is expected to make a strong push for Krug, and that could be his most likely landing spot if he leaves the Bruins, is his hometown Detroit Red Wings. While they had the worst record in the NHL this season and have been mired in a frustrating rebuild, they also have a lot of cap space, a huge need on the blue line, and the ability to make Krug one of their team captains right off the bat.
The combination of the money and the opportunity to help lead his childhood team back to the right path could be appealing to Krug, but he says he hasn’t yet given much thought to other teams’ situations or what might be out there for him.
“I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t thought about any other team or any other situation,” Krug said. “It’s been — I was very truthful and honest with you guys when I told you I wasn’t thinking about it during the season. I invested all my time into what’s going on with the Bruins and was very hopeful that it would result in ending back up with the Bruins. So I haven’t thought about any other team or any other situation up to date.
“Likely as we approach free agency I’ll probably have to do that, but I haven’t thought about anything. Very proud of what we’ve done here in Boston over the years and being part of that core group. Guys have come and gone and I’ve managed to stay here for, what is it, eight years now? Very happy that I was part of it. Hopefully that continues and hopefully I still am. That’s just the situation that’s here.”
Krug faces an incredibly difficult decision given the circumstances facing every NHL team under a flat, $81.5 million salary cap for the next two seasons. He’s smart enough to clearly not allow emotion to get in his way while deciding where he’s going to land on what he believes will be a career-spanning and possibly career-ending contract.
But where does that leave Detroit, realistically? Probably out of the picture, given their roster situation. One Torey Krug is not going to turn around the Detroit Red Wings, and while the Krug-to-Detroit scenario has some romance to it–and some connections to both team and coach, as the Bruins’ media corps noted–it’s hard to truly believe that Krug will find both the best “fit” and best “value” for his biggest, best contract in Detroit.
In the real world, his comments make it sound much more likely that Krug might back up a smaller-than-anticipated Brinks Truck to his front door, for the sake of a better chance to win a couple of Stanley Cups for himself before his career is over.
That sort of scenario, again, leaves the Wings out of the mix.