Torey Krug talks Mookie Betts, recent UFA extensions’ effects on new Bruins contract

Matt Kalman
February 28, 2020 - 5:36 pm

In addition to being the left-side of the Bruins’ second defense pair and the main facilitator of their No. 1 power play, Torey Krug is a sport fan.

Although he didn’t immerse himself of the details of Mookie Betts’ situations with the Red Sox, Krug obviously followed the situation right up to Betts’ trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month.

Krug, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, wasn’t surprised that Betts didn’t waver in his contract demands – as reported by WEEI’s Lou Merloni in late January – and that the outfielder’s position eventually led to the Red Sox making their move. Betts had been adamant for a while about going to free agency when eligible.

“Well I do know that from a very early age and from an early time he’s always stated that he’s trying to make as much money as he can,” Krug told WEEI on Friday. That’s just how he views baseball as a business. Some of us do that in hockey, some of us don’t. Some of us do it for love of hockey, love of winning. That’s where fans have to pick and choose and try to understand certain things. I guess I understand what he was doing, and he’s pretty honest about it, so you can’t fault the guy.”

Other than their pending free agency, Betts and Krug have little in common. While Betts is one of the top three to five players in all of baseball, Krug is better known for being a complementary player who’s the best at what he does, especially on the power play, while overcoming a discrepancy in size (he’s listed at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds).

The MLB luxury tax might be seen as a de facto salary cap to owners, but the NHL has a hard salary cap that can break a team trying to sustain success and make sure its best players are compensated. To that end the Bruins have freed up some cap space for this offseason with their trades of David Backes and Danton Heinen to Anaheim over the past week. That had the “Keep Krug” wing of the Bruins’ fanbase anticipating a long-term deal to keep him from July 1.

Of course, it’s not that simple because the Bruins have a lot of business to get to, including new contracts for fellow UFAs Jaroslav Halak and Zdeno Chara, and restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman and Matt Grzelcyk. David Krejci and Tuukka Rask will be eligible to sign contract extensions before the last season of their current deals.

As difficult as it is to read who general manager Don Sweeney is prioritizing, it’s equally tough to know what Krug is thinking beyond his public words. In the same conversation that Krug talked about “love of hockey, love of winning” he was asked about what a multi-millionaire hockey player (Krug’s made $5.25 million over the past four season) thinks when he sees a player like Betts turn down a triple-digit million-dollar contract, Krug talked about taking the most advantage possible of free agency.

“You say with all due respect and everything, you know we make a lot of money and we’re very well paid, but when you’re turning down big dollars like that, it’s not much of a difference in lifestyle to be honest. You can get away with making a little bit less here and there,” Krug said. “For us, you typically only get one kick at the can so you’re trying to maximize your value and as much as you can make. So definitely a little bit crazy.”

Published reports have Krug being able to demand as much as $9 million per season on the open market and maybe squeeze $8 million per season out of the Bruins. Of course term will be an issue, with the Bruins not like to want to go too far into this decade with the current 28-year-olld.

Aside from the speculation, there are facts to behold. First off, two expected gems of the 2020 summer UFA market signed extensions this week. Although they’re both forwards, Chris Kreider (28, seven years. $6.5 million average annual value) and J-G Pageau (27, six years, $5 million AAV) gave up some open-market bidding and some money to get term with terms they wanted to play with beyond this season.

We also know that Krejci makes $7 million, he’s the Bruins’ highest-paid player and that’s not likely continue into his next contract. After that Patrice Bergeron sets the bar at $6.875 million, David Pastrnak ($6.67 million), Brad Marchand ($6.125 million), Charlie McAvoy ($4.9 million) and Brand Carlo ($2.85 million) are all playing at a hometown discount that’s helped keep the Bruins near the top of the NHL one season after coming one game shy of winning the Stanley Cup.

Like the rest of us, Krug watched Kreider and Pageau situations because they were two of the higher-profile rentals on the trade market. Asked whether their decisions affect his thinking, though, Krug said he remains unchanged in his position.

“No, I’ve been in the same spot from Day One. Just obviously trying to respect the situation here and trying to find a balance of being paid fairly and obviously being part of a winning team too,” he said.

And as far as Betts and the blowback the Red Sox have received in the weeks since the trade, might that help Krug’s cause? After all the Bruins ownership won’t want to hold a four-person press conference to explain why one of their most productive and popular players, not to mention a vital leader of the club, has departed for another city.

Krug doesn’t anticipate Betts’ situation being part of his case to the Bruins.

“No, I don’t think it matters,” he said. “The Bruins are going to do whatever they need to do and their situation.”

Krug will also do what he needs to do, we just don’t know his intentions as well as we knew what Betts planned to do.

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