The restricted free agent, whose contract expired at the end of last season, missed the first week of this year's training camp as the Bruins attempted to crunch the numbers and get him re-signed, and finally, on Monday, the team announced that it had inked him to a one-year deal worth $1.4 million.
And just a few hours later, Krug was back where he belonged: on the ice at TD Garden, reunited with his teammates once again.
“I think at some point, you just got to get in here and make sure you're prepared for the upcoming season, and it got to be that time,” Krug said on Monday, standing in front of his stall in the B’s dressing room.
“And we talked to [General Manager] Pete [Chiarelli] a lot over the past few days and we decided to come to the deal that we reached. We're very happy to be here. I was very excited to walk in the room and see all of the guys, and be back in this great city, so I'm very happy with how things worked out.”
Though Krug is happy with his contract, he probably would have liked to earn more. His annual average salary for the 2014-15 season is less than the $1.7 million he earned in 2013-14 with bonuses.
But as Chiarelli reiterated, when it came down to it, Krug was willing to work with what the team could offer him rather than wait for the team to clear cap space -- and offer more money.
“I’ve explained to [Krug and fellow RFA Reilly Smith] throughout the process that these are two players that we’d like to keep,” Chiarelli said on Monday. “I just said, ‘Please be patient with us and we’ll hammer away at it as soon as we can to try and keep these guys.’ That means, right away, a one-year deal, and you work at it and you try and get something done."
Chiarelli added that ideally, he would like to sign both Krug and Smith to extensions as soon as he is able.
Though Krug truly broke out for the Bruins during their 2013 run to the Stanley Cup Final — he tallied a goal in his very first playoff game immediately after being called up from Providence, then tacked on four more points (including three goals) during the course of that five-game series versus the New York Rangers — he excelled in his first full NHL season in 2013-14. As quarterback of the first power play unit, he helped the Bruins forge the league’s third most potent man advantage.
He finished the season with 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 79 games, becoming just the fifth rookie defenseman in franchise history to register 10 or more goals in a season.
Now, after a longer-than-expected summer layoff, he is ready to get back to work and try to replicate those efforts.
“I'm very, very happy to be here,” he said. “It was a long offseason -- longer than normal, anyways -- and then you add the couple weeks when I wasn't here and the rest of my teammates were here working hard, and it makes it even longer. So I'm very happy it got worked out.”
Admittedly, Krug — who spent the last few weeks skating and working out in Connecticut alongside Smith — has some catching up to do.
“Now it's a matter of getting them in game shape,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said on Monday. “They've been skating, they showed up and actually look in real good shape, but playing and battling are two different things, so they've got a little less time than others have to get up to speed with everybody.”
Though Krug agrees that he is in good shape at the moment, he acknowledged that he will have to work hard over the next week or so in order to make up for lost time.
“You're not on the ice with NHL guys every day where I was,” he said. “Me and Smitty, we're going to work our hardest to get back where we were, and it shouldn't take long, I don't think. We've been skating back there every day, so it's not like we were off the ice or anything. We worked hard, so we're just happy to be back.”
The camp Krug joins is already wrought with competition. The Bruins have at least nine defensemen vying for seven spots, and with Krug entering the mix, the competition becomes even fiercer.
“I’m really excited all of these great hockey players are here pushing each other because if we were in here and all of these jobs were just given to people, then no one would get better,” Krug said. “So I'm excited about the group of guys we have here, especially on the back end, and it's a lot fun. I know a lot of these guys from playing in Providence, and I'm just glad to be back in the same room.”
Throughout the preseason, each member of the Bruins has reiterated the fact that they believe competition will bring out the best in each and every one of them. Following Krug’s arrival, they didn’t feel any differently.
“I think everyone’s pushing each other and everyone’s working hard,” said forward Chris Kelly. “Competition is a great thing for everyone — it makes everyone work that much harder, and to know that there are people pushing for jobs, you either need to push back or you lose a spot. So I think it just helps you in the long run, especially coming into the season.”
Added veteran blueliner Johnny Boychuk, “Nobody's in the clear, and even in the regular season, you want to improve on everything, so it's good competition when you have young guys coming in and fighting for the job. They push you to be better as well.”
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton admitted that it’s nice to have Krug and Smith back, if only to remove the distraction their absences inevitably caused.
“It's just nice to have that kind of settled,” he said. “There would be guys talking about, ‘When are they coming back?’ and everything, so it's nice to have that settled, and obviously two good guys and good players and teammates, so it's nice to have everyone back.”
And, in turn, it’s nice for Krug to be back. It wasn’t just that he was eager to return to NHL action; he was eager to return to this team in particular, where he is surrounded by some of the top talent in the league, where his team has had a legitimate chance to contend for a Stanley Cup for each of the last several years.
Krug isn’t taking that for granted. He knows that not every restricted free agent finds himself in such a fortunate situation, and that made him all the more eager to solidify a deal and get back on the ice at the Garden.
“I think [the signing] bodes well because what we're trying to do here right now is have a real competitive team every year, and competitive to the point where we feel like we have a chance at the Cup every year,” Julien said. “So in order to do that and have success, some players have to understand that to do that, maybe they can get more money somewhere else, but they'd rather play in this environment."
"If we have a winning team, they're willing to suck it up a little bit, for the sake of everybody, which you've seen players do here already."
“There's some players on this team that could make a lot more somewhere else, but they chose to stay here," Julien continued. "And we're happy to try and build that culture where it's fun to be here and it's fun to be around each other, and for X amount of dollars, you're willing to stay here and be happy, [rather] than go somewhere else and make a little bit more and maybe not have as much fun as you're having here."
“So that's the culture we're trying to build, and hopefully, most of the guys are buying into it.”