The Torey Krug era in Boston is over.
Krug signed for seven years and $6.5 million annually in St. Louis, the Blues confirmed on Friday night.
Though the Bruins reportedly made a similar offer — one less year, same average annual value — Krug threw water on that idea.
“Not close,” Krug said, when asked how close he was to returning. “There was no communication. Nothing happened.”
The Bruins' last offer to him, he said, was “about a year ago.” Krug said the offer was later pulled, so he jumped on St. Louis’s offer.
Boston general manager Don Sweeney was unavailable for comment. He is slated to speak at 1 p.m. Saturday.
It leaves the Bruins looking for a top-four defenseman on the left side, and a quarterback for their power play. It also means St. Louis likely will not re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo, who was rumored to be heading to Vegas.
Krug was a driving force in the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, when they lost in Game 7 to the Blues. Krug’s steamrolling hit on forward Robert Thomas in Game 1 was an emotional and physical tone-setter.
He said Friday he hadn’t spoken with Thomas, but expected to in the coming days.
Did we just become best friends??? pic.twitter.com/wjGrpboq8n— Robert Thomas (@RThomas_27) October 10, 2020
Krug, 29, scored nine goals with 40 assists in 61 games this season. He added six assists in 13 playoff games.
Sweeney, faced with a flat salary cap ($81.5 million) for this season if not longer, would not pay open-market value for the undrafted gem he signed out of Michigan State in 2012.
As of late Friday, the Bruins had yet to sign captain Zdeno Chara, an unrestricted free agent, and restricted free agents Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk. Raises for young stars Charlie McAvoy, whose contract expires in 2022, and David Pastrnak (2023) will greatly impact the Bruins' budget.
Krug played on a pair of one-year deals before signing for four years and $21 million in 2016. He made it clear he wanted to maximize his value. Krug said his camp, including agent Lewis Gross, and the Bruins did not negotiate during the season.
“I would be the last person to begrudge any player trying to make the best decision for [them] and their family,” Sweeney said in early September, “and in a perfect world, it’s with us, but we know that the world is anything but perfect right about now.
“Listen, I respect Torey coming in as a rookie free agent and making our hockey club. I only hope that we made the moves to accommodate what he and his family and agent feel he has earned.”
His departure leaves the Bruins without their top power-play quarterback. The Bruins are likely to let another undersized lefthanded shot, Grzelcyk, get first crack at replacing Krug. To this point, Grzlecyk has been a facilitator on the man-advantage. Krug is a play driver.
Krug’s heavy shot, lateral mobility, and vision blended with his pinpoint passing accuracy and deception, helping create one of the league’s most-feared units. The Bruins have not ranked lower than seventh in power play success since 2015-16. In the last three years, they were fourth (‘18), third (’19), and second (’20).
In the last three seasons, Krug has produced more assists (73), primary assists (44), and points (82) on the power play than any defenseman other than Washington’s John Carlson.
Only Tampa Bay (188) has more power-play goals in the last three years than Boston (183). Krug ranks 14th in power-play points among all skaters in that time, behind Pastrnak (third) and Brad Marchand (10th).
Since Krug’s first full year, 2013-14, he ranks eighth in assists by a defenseman (268) in all situations. Krug has racked up 40 or more assists in each of the last five seasons, including a high of 47 in 2018-19. He set career highs in goals (14) and points (59) in 2017-18.
Krug grew up a Red Wings fan in Livonia, Mich., and attended Michigan State, but he made Boston his home. Krug and his wife, Melanie, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Saylor, after the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. The couple, who were North End neighbors of Chara, named their dog Fenway.
It was easy for Bruins fans to root for Krug, who played bigger than his stature (5 feet, 9 inches and 186 pounds), never shrank from the spotlight, and was confident to the point of being brash.
Krug, who played for current Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill in juniors (USHL Indiana), was named a sophomore captain at Michigan State in 2010. Sweeney, then assistant GM under Peter Chiarelli, and college scout Ryan Nadeau closely watched his development. In 2012, Chiarelli saw him in Bridgeport, Conn., where Michigan State lost to Union in the NCAA Tournament. Krug signed a three-year, $2.75 million deal with the Bruins on March 25, 2012, two days after the season-ending loss.
Though he soon earned a reputation for his passes — crisp, and on a tee — Bruins fans first noticed Krug for his cannon shot. After a season in the AHL, he entered the 2013 playoffs against the Rangers as an emergency spare. With three regular-season games under his belt, Krug scored four goals in his first five playoff games. No NHL player had ever done that.
“I have to do things like that if I want to stick around,” Krug said. “If I’m not scoring or making an impact like that … they’ll find a bigger guy.”
Athletes, particularly those lacking in size, use external doubt as fuel. Krug found constant motivation in the criticism he was merely an offensive specialist.
Krug may have erased a lot of those doubts in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. In addition to the helmetless, hair-flying hit on Thomas, he and partner Brandon Carlo were solid as the Bruins' second pair. In a Game 3 in which the power play went 4 for 4, Krug set a club record for defensemen for points in a playoff game (4).
Coach Bruce Cassidy, an offensive defenseman in his playing days, took a shine to Krug while coaching Providence. They reconnected when Cassidy was promoted to Boston’s staff in 2016. Cassidy seemed proud of Krug during last year’s Final, praising his hard work.
“You’re always going to get the power-play acumen from him,” Cassidy said. “He’s going to make his breakout passes. He takes a lot of pride in taking the other side of the puck — a lot of pride. If you watch video, he’s boxing out big guys every night, he’s committed to that. He’s not leaving the zone early, he’s making sure pucks are going out of the zone before he is, all of the little things that make a good defenseman.”
Without Krug, the Bruins will be trying to wring more offense out of the back line. In the postseason, the Bruins had the sixth-lowest rate of goals by defensemen (two of 29 scored by the club, or 6.9 percent), and fourth-lowest rate of points (17 of 82, or 20.7 percent). In the regular season, the Bruins ranked 23rd of 31 teams in offense from the back end.
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.