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Torey Krug & Reilly Smith Not Present as Training Camp Opens

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - When the Bruins' training camp opened on Thursday at TD Garden with off-ice fitness testing, defenseman Torey Krug and forward Reilly Smith were not present.

Both restricted free agents, Krug and Smith remain unsigned.

"Won't comment on negotiations," General Manager Peter Chiarelli told media following the testing. "We want them in our mix. As it's been chronicled, we've never had that type of player not signed and not come to camp."

Chiarelli is entering his ninth season with Boston. His only experience with players not reporting to camp stems from his time with Ottawa.

"I've been through a few of them in my time, so - they're not very pleasant, but that's what we have right now," he said.

In the days leading up to the opening of training camp, the GM had remained hopeful that both players would be in camp. When they'll be in camp, if at all, remains to be seen. The season officially opens for Boston on October 8.

"You know, in an ideal world - to have all of your players healthy and present, that would be ideal," Chiarelli said. "Younger players, older players, if they miss time, they're going to fall behind."

"It's unfortunate that they're not here. They're both good players, they both contributed to our success last year and [and Krug the previous season], and I hope something gets done at some point."

With Krug and Smith classified as entry-level free agents, the Bruins are the only team in the NHL with which the RFAs can negotiate.

Krug and Smith both signed their first NHL contracts as 20-year-olds (Smith with Dallas) in 2011. According to the CBA, they would have had full RFA rights, had they gained three years professional experience on their entry-level deals.

For them, one year of pro experience would be classified as having played 10 or more games. Smith played just three games with Dallas in 2011-12 after leaving Miami University (Ohio), while Krug suited up in two games with Boston upon leaving Michigan State and signing his first NHL contract. Thus, they both only have two years of pro experience.

When Chiarelli was asked by a reporter on Thursday about the timeline with which he would like to get the deals done, the GM declined to comment.

Right now, the Bruins have roughly $3.2 million in cap space to work with (once Marc Savard is placed on long-term injured reserve), according to CapGeek.com.

They must be cap-compliant by the start of the 2014-15 season, when NHL Opening Day rosters are submitted to the League.

There a number of different ways to shed salary prior to that time, with tough decisions ahead. One option is to sign Krug and Smith now, and try to shed the money before the beginning of the season.

"There's different ways - for all of you 'capologists,' there's different ways to skin the cat, and that's one of 15," said Chiarelli. "So those are business decisions that I have to make."

The GM would like to see how the competition plays out during training camp.

With four forward spots up for grabs, at least 10 players have been mentioned in the mix, including young players and invites like Simon Gagne. Without Smith, players could have more opportunities higher in the lineup, and more chances to impress.

The surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen at camp will add to the drama as well. With the absence of Krug, a blueliner on the cusp of the NHL like David Warsofsky could be given more of a look.

"Certainly will be an opportunity for him - similar size and type of defenseman, so he should take advantage of it," said Chiarelli.

Something eventually has to give, though, on both fronts.

"This year, I’m looking forward to it to a certain degree - there’s a lot of competition, a lot of spots," Chiarelli said earlier this week, while in Tennessee for the rookie tournament.

"Including, you don’t wish one of these d-men to be traded, but we just have too many d-men. So at some point I’m going to have to do it, and most of the teams in the League will like one of these defensemen. And I know everybody’s wondering 'will he make a move?' 'will he make a move?' but I’m going to see what’s going to happen, see who fits well with whom."

The trade market right now is "pretty good," according to Chiarelli, and has been that way all summer.

"I've said that I'm looking to trade a defenseman, but I'm very eager to see the competition," he said. "There's spots, there are no restrictions - if I have to open with eight D, I can, so there's no real pressing need to do it, other than it's not ideal."

The Bruins nearly opened last season with eight defensemen, before Kevan Miller was the final cut.

"Seven spots ideally, but I could carry eight."

Veteran Johnny Boychuk is embracing the heightened competition, while also trying to block out any speculations surrounding the Bruins' potential decision-making.

"I mean, we have so many good defensemen - you have to be on your A-game or else somebody could take your spot," said Boychuk. "You have to be prepared to work your behind off."

The uncertainty surrounding the roster can still be unnerving.

"You see [Torey's and Reilly's] names on the list and in your group, and they're not there, and it's just kind of a weird situation," said Dougie Hamilton. "Obviously, that's just business and I'm sure they want to be here pretty bad, and probably not happy they're missing. So we'll see what happens."

But it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that there are questions entering camp for the Bruins. The GM alluded to it back during the draft and free agency. He pointed out decisions could being made during camp, and into the start of the season.

"We'd all like things to be certain," Chiarelli said. "But [with competition], the cream will rise to the top, and I'm looking forward to it."

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