Back on Sept. 29, after Peter Chiarelli had inked both Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to team-friendly one-year deals worth a cap hit of $1.4 million each, the Bruins general manager said that he would try to sign them to extensions “as soon as we can.”
That became reality on Friday, as the Bruins announced they had signed Krug to a one-year extension worth $3.4 million and Smith to a two-year extension worth $6.85 million. Smith will earn $3.35 million in the first year and $3.5 million in the second year.
“These are players we’ve always liked, and have a bright future for us,” Chiarelli said. “Term was important. It’s shorter term. It gives us more flexibility and it gives them more flexibility, as far as performing on a short-term platform and becoming more of a fixture with us going forward.”
That seemed to be particularly important for Krug, who would like to graduate out of the bottom-pairing role in which he has found himself throughout his tenure with the Bruins.
The defenseman has had a season that mostly aligned with expectations, as the quarterback on the power play and as a third-pairing defenseman. He has 11 goals and 20 assists. But he wants more, in terms of role, in terms of eventual contract, in terms of responsibility.
That is why he was comfortable going with a riskier one-year deal, rather than more term and more stability.
“I want to prove myself as a top-four guy,” Krug said. “My whole career I’ve been betting on myself, so it’s another opportunity to do that.
“I just want to expand my role. I think like any player would, they want to play more, they want to be a bigger part of the team. And that’s the reasoning behind the one year.”
As Chiarelli said, “Right now, if you just look at minutes, from the outside, you’d say he’s not a top-four guy. But he’s close.”
So what does he need to do to prove himself?
“With me, the question is defending,” Krug said. “I pride myself on how I defend and the amount I defend. I don’t defend as much as other people because I break the puck out of our zone and don’t spend a lot of time in our zone.
“You’ve got to win the coach’s trust, whether it’s last minute of a period or near the end of a game taking defensive-zone faceoffs. It’s all that.”
Smith, it could be argued, is getting more of a bump in salary than his play this season has warranted. The right wing seemed to take a step back from last season, when he scored 20 goals and added 31 assists while playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. This season, Smith has 12 goals and 23 assists, and has gone long stretches without scoring.
The argument all season has been that the team is not scoring as much, and so Smith is not scoring as much. He’s not picking up the points that he would in a better offensive season. That’s possible.
“He’s playing in our top six,” Chiarelli said. “I know he’s had a little bit of a struggle for a short period of time here, but he’s a good young player who is only going to get better.”
But Chiarelli was clear in saying that he believes he is purely paying market value for both Smith and Krug. That is what the players would get, as restricted free agents, in arbitration, and so that is what it took to sign them.
“Well, it is,” Chiarelli said, when asked if that was the going rate for a 20-goal scorer. “If you go through the comparables, it is. That’s where it stands.”
With the way their deals happened last season — one-year contracts, agreed to after both players missed most of training camp — Chiarelli said he felt an obligation to get the deals signed sooner rather than later.
Including these signings, the Bruins now have a little less than $58 million committed to 13 players for 2015-16 against the salary cap, not including Marc Savard’s hit, according to salary data from Capgeek.com and NHLnumbers.com.
It has not been easy for Chiarelli and the Bruins to determine the contracts of the team’s unsigned players, with uncertainty surrounding what the cap will eventually be. The Bruins still have to sign restricted free agents Dougie Hamilton (nothing is brewing on him, at the moment, Chiarelli said) and Brett Connolly, and a group of unrestricted free agents led by Carl Soderberg, Adam McQuaid, and Matt Bartkowski. Milan Lucic is up after next season.
Asked if the uncertainty affected what the team has done and can do, Chiarelli said, “Yeah, a little bit. It’s more about having flexibility. I’ve been staying away from some longer-term notions because of that, and so I think really we have to know where the cap’s going to be.
“We’ve gone through different rosters at different cap numbers, but you really can’t execute until you know what the cap is.”
. . .
Connolly had surgery on the displaced fracture in his right index finger Thursday. He is out for six weeks . . . Gregory Campbell could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday against the Flyers after missing the last four games with an upper-body injury.