It feels like just yesterday Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug was breaking into the NHL. A product of Michigan State University, Krug was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2012 and signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent. He became a staple for the Bruins during the 2013-14 season and has been one of their top defenseman ever since.
Now 29 years old, Krug is at the end of his current deal in Boston which paid him $5.25 over the past four seasons. Due to the cap limitations the Bruins are facing, there’s a good chance Torey Krug will hit the open market for the first time in his career this offseason. While he’s going to see a major pay raise from his previous deal and will be a hot commodity to NHL teams, could he be on the Flyers radar this fall?
The Flyers are in a real interesting spot when it comes to their defense. They currently have six defenseman under contract for next season, including- Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Mark Friedman, and Samuel Morin. Justin Braun is an unrestricted free agent and Phil Myers and Robert Hagg are both restricted free agents.
Provided they let Braun and Hagg walk in free agency and retain Myers on a cheap bridge deal, there would be an open roster spot, as both Friedman and Morin are fairly untested in the NHL, having just 16 games of experience between them.
With a spot available, then comes the monetary issue. The salary cap will stay flat this year (and probably for the foreseeable future) and it means money will be tight within the Flyers organization. The biggest trade chip the Flyers have on the roster is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who is making $4.5 million for three more seasons. While that won’t cover Krug’s new cap hit alone, it will go a long way to make up for it.
One of the most recent trades in the NHL was the St. Louis Blues dealing goaltender Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens for third and seventh round draft picks. It was essentially a cap dump from the Blues, getting rid of a middle-of-the-road goaltender so they can re-sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Could a potential similar cap dump be in the Flyers future?
It’s no secret the best days of Shayne Gostisbehere are long in the rear view, and after losing his roster spot in the playoffs to Robert Hagg, it’s pretty clear his days in Philly are numbered. While he may not draw a huge return, there are a fair number of teams desperate enough to take a chance on a defenseman that it shouldn’t be too hard to find a suitor for him, though, just like Jake Allen, a pair of draft picks may be the best return.
Krug is still a top defenseman and it’s pretty clear the Flyers need a stop-gap on the back end. Matt Niskanen filled the role next to Ivan Provorov this season, but by the time the playoffs came around he was seemingly out of gas. He can still be an effective defenseman, but maybe deploying him in a lesser role will extend his effectiveness.
The Flyers do have two potential top defensemen in the making with Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers, though the inexperience and wildly inconsistent play makes it hard to imagine them taking the reins just yet. The 23-year-old Myers has 71 games under his belt and Sanheim, who turned 24 in March, clocks in at 200. While there is plenty of time for their development to continue, if the Flyers are going to make a serious push for the Cup, they can’t really devote time to the learning curve anymore.
Bringing in Krug is simple. A veteran of 523 games, Krug can play a solid defensive game and chip in offense when needed, typically putting up around 10 goals and 50 points. He gives the Flyers flexibility in their top four, where he can play alongside Provorov if one of Myers or Sanheim isn’t ready to make the leap, or play on the second pair and carry whoever isn’t playing with Provorov.
Predicting Krug’s next contract will be tricky. He will undoubtedly be looking to be paid as a top guy, but with the league-wide cap issues, he may not find it. Your average top defenseman whose just below elite in the league is making anywhere from $6 to $7 million, and with his current deal paying him $5.25, he could seek the higher end of that.
Will the Flyers be in on Torey Krug? It’s a little to early to say, but there is no reason not to be. One of the biggest issues the Flyers faced in the playoffs was a lackluster defensive unit. Adding another top guy to the mix may seem like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but until Sanheim and Myers prove they can play at a high level with consistency, it’s hard to leave them be and enter another season without some backup.
There may be some in-house defensive solutions coming in the near future with Egor Zamula and Cam York on the way, but without a professional game under their belt yet, it’s hard to say where they will shake out. Both Niskanen and Sanheim have contracts that are up in the summer of 2021 and that may be the open door one of those young defenseman need to make the jump to the NHL.
The push for the Stanley Cup is on as the Flyers window is wide open for the first time in almost a deacde. While it may be the safe play to keep the current team together and let them work out their issues, the bold, more productive route is fixing those solutions now from the outside. Chuck Fletcher holds the key to the Flyers’ future and has so far not strayed away from adding players in the offseason. Now it’s time to see if he’s willing to take the team to the next level this summer, Torey Krug or otherwise.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: sports.yahoo.com