The 2016-17 season was the last one for Andrei Markov with the Montreal Canadiens. He had been the top left-handed defenceman of the franchise for a long time. Ever since he left, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin hasn’t been able to replace him. This offseason, he will have the opportunity to do so. Boston Bruins defenceman Torey Krug will be an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins might not be able to sign him. We’ll take a look at what type of player Torey Krug is, the defence in Montreal, and how Torey Krug would fit in, what contract to offer him and why he would want to come to Montreal.
Signing Torey Krug Would Make the Habs a Lot Better
Torey Krug’s Player Profile
Type of Player
Krug is a small puck-moving defenceman. What does that mean, you ask? It means that he moves the puck up the ice easily and is rarely stopped while doing so. Also, he facilitates zone entries for his forwards by allowing them to gain speed in the neutral zone. This can potentially, catch a defenceman flat-footed. When defencemen that aren’t puck-moving defencemen are trying to breakout, they usually will find a forward that will skate the puck up the ice. Torey Krug is able to do it on his own.
Offensively, Krug is one of the best league-wide on the blueline. This season he had nine goals and 49 points in 61 games. It’s worth noting that of those 49 points, 28 were on the powerplay. To simply put it, he’s a power-play machine. He’s one of the best, if not the best, quarterback on the power-play in the league. Also, he distributes the puck so well at the point for his forwards and allows them to score easy goals.
When we look at his GF/60 on the power-play, he had a Z-Score above 3 this season. That means he is an exceptional player in that regard. At even strength, he is amazing as well. He has good hands, explosive skating in the neutral zone, a good wrist shot and he’s really good at transitioning. He often acts as a fourth forward which can overwhelm the opposite team.
His defence is his weakness. He’s not bad defensively but he can get overpowered by big forwards when they try to cut in the middle on a one-on-one due to his smaller frame and due to the fact that he’s not the fastest skater. Other than that, in his own end, he plays a decent defensive game. His even-strength defense GAR is -0.7 which is not the best but not the worst either considering the numbers we usually see with defencemen that play like Krug does.
State of the Defense in Montreal
When we look at the right side of the defence in Montreal, it looks pretty good. Shea Weber proved he’s still a top defenceman that can score goals and can also shutdown the opposite team’s biggest threats offensively. Jeff Petry is a great two-way defenceman and does well when he has to play top-pairing minutes. With that being said, the left side of the defence is the weak spot.
Whether it’s Victor Mete or Ben Chiarot that plays the top minutes on the left side, they’re not in the right chair. They’re not bad defenceman but they don’t play as well when they play top-pairing compared to when they play second-pairing or even third-pairing minutes. Montreal has been in desperate need of a top-pairing left-handed defenceman ever since Markov left in 2017.
How Does Krug Fit In?
As we’ve established, Krug is a top-pairing left-handed defenceman and the Canadiens need a top-pairing left-handed defenceman. It’s a perfect match. He would fit perfectly on the left of Weber as these two types of players go well together. Mete has the same style of play as Krug but doesn’t have the talent to put up put points as he does. When Mete played with Weber, the pair was doing well. We could expect the same chemistry if Krug plays with Weber, but with a much more important production coming from the pairing.
We know Krug is amazing when it comes to running the power-play. He would help the Habs power-play tremendously. The Canadiens’ power-play has been struggling this season. They converted with the man advantage 17.74 percent of the time which is below the league average of 20.03 percent. They were 22nd in the league in that regard.
When it comes to GF/60 with the man advantage, they were even worse. They were 25th with 5.97 GF/60. We’ve established earlier that Krug is one of the best defencemen on the power-play league-wide and he would definitely improve this aspect of the game with the Canadiens.
What Would the Canadiens Offer to Torey Krug?
Even though Dustin Byfuglien is not the same type of defenceman as Krug, he is a great comparison in terms of his age and his point production at the time of signing his contract. On February 8th, 2016, Byfuglien signed a five-year deal for a cap-hit of $7.6 million. At the time of the signing, it was 10.64 percent of the salary cap.
Kris Letang is another great comparable for what Krug might sign for this offseason as Letang had a similar point production to Krug before signing. Also, they both have similar play styles. On July 1st, 2013, Letang signed an eight-year deal worth $58 million with a cap-hit of $7.25 million. It was worth 11.28 percent of the cap back then.
Finally, the contract John Carlson signed on June 25th, 2018 is a great comparable for when Krug negotiates his next contract. They play the same type of game, they are almost the same age and they also have the same kind of production. He signed an eight-year deal with a cap-hit of $8 million taking up 10.06 percent of the cap.
While we have to keep these comparables in mind, it’s worth noting that they all signed with the team they were with before their contracts expired which is not the case for Torey Krug in this article. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that Krug’s contract will take up between 10 and 11 percent of the salary cap.
Assuming that the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million next season, that means he could get a cap-hit between $8.15 million and approximately $9 million which is quite a big range. Krug will probably get a cap-hit of $9 million due to him being an unrestricted free agent. Teams will be ready to pay more than they usually would.
For the length, it’s no surprise that he will want to get a long-term deal as this is going to be his only chance to cash in. The longest deal the Habs can offer is seven years and so that’s what he would get from the Habs. It would take him to 36-years-old at the end of his contract. It looks like Krug could sign a seven-year deal worth $63 million this offseason if the Habs go after him.
Why Would Krug Choose Montreal?
Can’t Stay With the Bruins
Why would Krug not sign with the Bruins, you ask? The main reason is because of the salary cap issues the Bruins will face this offseason. And the fact the Habs will have money to spend. Again, assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Bruins will have around $18 million to sign Joakim Nordstrom, Anders Bjork, Jake Debrusk, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, and Krug.
The Habs, on the other hand, will have around $18.5 million but the only important pieces they will have to sign are Mete and Max Domi. Assuming Domi signs for a $6 million cap-hit as discussed in a previous article, and Mete won’t sign for too much, the Habs will have enough cap space to sign Krug to a $9 million cap-hit. He might want to go with the team that offers the most and the Habs could very well do that.
So Why Montreal?
Another question people will ask is: why would he not sign with another team that has the cap space other than the Habs? One reason why Krug would sign with the Habs is that he played one season with Petry back in 2009-10 for Michigan State University. They know each other and Petry could convince him to join the Habs. Also, he would be guaranteed to get a ton of ice time and could make it possible for the Habs, and himself, to make the playoffs.