Now that the Boston Bruins have been ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the main story lines surrounding the team will revolve around the future of some of their long-time defenders. Will Zdeno Chara retire? Play for another team? The future of the Bruins’ captain may not even be the most discussed feature of the team’s blue-line, however. That title may go to pending unrestricted free agent Torey Krug.
Krug is set to hit the open market after making a name for himself during his nine-year career with the Bruins. The Michigan State Spartans product should be one of the more intriguing names available this off-season. This has many wondering where he might go. One intriguing possibility? His hometown Detroit Red Wings.
Torey Krug and the Red Wings Make Sense
When people speculate the future of Krug, the Red Wings often come up as a logical option. And, on a surface level, this partnership would make a lot of sense. The Red Wings will have a bevy of cap space to work with this off-season as many of their long-time bad contracts will be ending. The Red Wings are in a prime position to spend big on a free agent. Detroit is filled with holes throughout the lineup, but this is perhaps most obvious on the blue line.
The Wings’ defence corps has languished since the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the constant injury problems of Niklas Kronwall. They have some exciting defensive prospects with Filip Hronek and Moritz Seider. Could acquiring Torey Krug bolster their defence now and allow the veteran to mentor the Red Wings’ young and promising defenders? Krug’s stewarding could certainly go a long way. From a roster perspective, Krug patrolling the Detroit blue line seems like a natural fit.
Red Wings History of “Home Grown” Talent
More than just making sense for the roster, Torey Krug would make sense given the Detroit’s past propensity for bringing in local talent. The Red Wings have made it a pattern over the past several years to deploy players that developed in Michigan-based NCAA programs. The Red Wings roster last season was comprised of five such players, including Dylan Larkin, Taro Hirose, Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser.
Signing Torey Krug represents another step in that direction for the Red Wings. Krug played his college hockey at Michigan State University, making him a perfect fit in this tradition of signing “home-grown” talents.
Despite Krug being a quality player that fills an area for the need for the Red Wings, would investing in him really make sense for Detroit? It is easy to get excited about bringing in a player like Krug, but there are also significant questions that need to be asked.
It’s impossible to guess how the upcoming stagnation of salary cap growth will affect contracts going into this off-season. Players who once expected big raises may be in for short-term bridge contracts or underwhelming salaries. It is safe to assume, however, that Torey Krug is due for a bit of a raise.
Krug’s last contract with Boston paid the defender $5.25 million in average annual value. What number will he be looking for with his next contract? Krug’s skill set is valuable in today’s NHL and only getting more desirable. It may be worth paying for, but the defender just turned 29 years old. The Red Wings have plenty of cap space now, but what if Krug declines? What if Krug isn’t really as valuable as he may seem?
Can Torey Krug Carry The Load?
That last question may seem a bit speculative. A defender that averages around 50 points, is capable of running a power play and has a history of consistent offensive production is a good bet, right? That’s likely what the New York Rangers thought when they signed Kevin Shattenkirk going into his age 29-season. Shattenkirk had long been a top-end offensive contributor and signed a deal worth nearly $7 million with his hometown Rangers in 2017. Just two years after that deal was signed, The New York Rangers bought out Shattenkirk’s deal after a disastrous tenure.
One instance is not a predictor for all future similar scenarios, but much like Shattenkirk before signing in New York, Krug has never been expected to be the number-one defender in Boston. The Bruins consistently surround their D-men with other talented D-men. Given their similar production, age, and that both players have been secondary options to this point, it’s difficult not to draw a comparison between Krug and Shattenkirk. Detroit can not afford a Shattenkirk-esque situation during this rebuild.
Sticking with the comparison, Kevin Shattenkirk is once again looking like a quality player with the Tampa Bay Lightning where he can be protected. It is fair to ask if Krug is able to handle being a number-one D-man. This being a position he would certainly hold in Detroit. Krug starts 67.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a clear indication he needs to be put into positions to succeed. Can Krug produce similar numbers in a different role? Maybe, but the Red Wings can’t afford to operate on maybes. Especially not when the situation involves a possible monster-sized contract.
Detroit should still look into signing Krug, however, if the defender is interested in a bridge deal. Give Krug the opportunity to show that he is not just a specialist, and he may flourish. It might cost the Red Wings in the long-run when it comes time to sign the long-term deal. But, that will be worth knowing what they’re getting. If Krug has his heart set on a long-term deal, he may not be a good fit in Detroit. Instead, Krug may be most effective on a team that already competes and is looking to take the next step. Not a team, like Detroit, that is looking to take their first step.