David Krejci will make $5.25 million against the salary cap this season for the Boston Bruins, but in 2015-16, he'll be the highest-paid player on the roster.
According to reports, the Bruins signed the Czech to a six-year, $43.5 million extension Wednesday night. The $7.25 million cap hit that comes with it makes him a bigger financial burden than Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron after this season. It's a deal that comes at a perfect time for Krejci. The 69 points he posted was his highest amount since 2008-09 and he got some Selke consideration. And his eligibility comes in the autumn of his peak years - he's got a few good ones left in him, but about halfway through this contract he'll likely start into a natural decline. With a contract signed a year before the current one expires, Krejci doesn't risk having to negotiate against a down year. Although the chanes of Krejci having a down year seem remote. What the Bruins keep here is a remarkably consistent player. Krejci's point totals in his past five full seasons read as: 73, 52, 62, 62, 69. A natural playmaker, Krejci has a strong two-way game and is a great complement to Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins made a significant commitment to Krejci and to the status quo of the top end of the roster.
With RFA Torey Krug still unsigned for this season, the Bruins now have just shy of $54 million committed to 11 players starting in 2015-16. If Krug does sign, that'll cut into the cap structure by a few million more. After this season, Boston has six players scheduled to become UFAs and four up as RFAs. If the salary cap goes up to $72 million, Boston would have about $18 million to work with. They'll also begin grappling with Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson who will be one year away from UFA and in the same position Krejci was. Krejci didn't do the Bruins any favors with this extension. The $7.25 million contract seems high, especially considering he got a six-year term with it. The best case scenario for the Bruins would have been four years at the same money, or six years at a little less money. Krejci, of course, could have done even better as a free agent next summer. To no one's surprise, Boston will keep being a cap ceiling team for the next while with a huge commitment to a core that has made the team a yearly contender. And for the next while, that formula could win the Bruins another Cup...or two. Krejci and Bergeron make up one of the best 1-2 center options in the NHL and are a key ingredient in their success, so they're absolutely worth it for a Cup team to highly invest in. But over the life of Krejci's contract, the roster will age. Zdeno Chara will retire and Bergeron, Rask and Krejci will enter their mid-30s. Rumors have circled around the possibility of trading pending UFA Johnny Boychuk, which would save the Bruins $3.36 million now and more on his next contract. So there will be some juggling ahead, but they should mostly impact the bottom roster spots. In the meantime, it's vitally important to a future transition for the team to keep drafting and developing well, while finding shrewd signings from NHL or college free agency. The Bruins have bet big the top of this roster will win another championship, but if the bottom withers, so will their Cup chances. That's what this is all about. If the Bruins win at least one more Stanley Cup it won't matter that they paid Krejci more money than anyone else on the roster. It won't matter that this deal squeezed the Bruins cap with a lot of contracts expiring on the horizon. If Boston wins again, all that will matter is they kept around a championship roster. The best teams will always have to dance around the cap at the expense of bottom-six, bottom-pair players. In the current league setup, the money is in the stars at the top and the challenge is picking the right core of players to throw it at, while finding smart, low-money deals to fill out the roster. This is the game. If Boston gets another Cup, everyone wins here.
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