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Torey Krug, Reilly Smith Remain in the Fold with Black and Gold

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - Torey Krug and Reilly Smith, both set to become restricted free agents in the offseason, inked contract extensions announced by the Bruins on Friday morning.

Krug's one-year extension keeps him in Black and Gold through at least the 2015-16 season, with Smith signed a two-year extension through 2016-17.

"I want to play in Boston as long as I can, but I've got to prove myself," Krug said after signing the extension. "And that comes with defending better, and taking on a bigger role with the team."

"I want to be a top-four defenseman and I want to prove it to myself, I want to prove it to Peter [Chiarelli] and the coaching staff as well, so, in time, hopefully, it leads to something bigger and better."

With Smith's two-year extension, he's embracing the pressure that it brings, to keep improving.

"I welcome it. It's probably a little bit more pressure, but as a hockey player, and playing in this organization and at this level, you welcome that every day," Smith said. "Because people get better every day and just being able to cope with the challenges and the changes in this League, I think it's something that every player, they dream to do."

Krug and Smith are both in their third pro seasons, and just their second full-time NHL seasons. Smith spent most of the lockout season in the AHL, before joining Dallas. His first real full-time, top-six role came with the Bruins last season.

"These are two good young players," General Manager Peter Chiarelli said in a press conference on Friday. "These are players we've always liked, they have a bright future for us. Term was important. Shorter term, it gives us more flexibility and it gives them more flexibility as far as performing on a more of a short term platform and becoming more of a fixture for us moving forward."

"So the one, the two-year terms were important to us. These were deals that came about - the ideas and the philosophies came about more after we signed the one-year deals [in September]. Later in the winter and early in January and February, we started talking more about it."

"They weren't very hard to bring together with the comparables that are there and these are two good young players, two good young people, and happy to get them done."

Krug's deal is worth a cap figure of $3.4 million, with Smith's contract worth an annual cap figure of $3.425 million (3.35 in the first year and 3.5 in the second year). Both players' camps could have opted to go to arbitration in the summer.

"Well it was more about where - they both have arbitration, so it was more about they would land that way," said Chiarelli of the numbers. "If you go through the comparables, it is, that's where it stands."

"This is what they would get."

As the GM noted, the 23-year-olds are young and still progressing in their respective games.

Heading into the Bruins' game on March 7, Krug had played in 141 NHL regular season games, with 25 goals and 48 assists for 73 points with a plus-23 rating. He also has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 27 playoffs games. He's picked up more minutes in 2014-15 and taken on a larger role.

"You know, I'm happy with where [my game's] at," said Krug, reflecting on his growth with Boston. "If you look at from last year to this year, or even the first half of this year to the second half of this year, I'm just defending better and my breakouts have been where they should be, and not spending a lot of time in the D zone because of that."

"It's progressing better and can only get better, so as long as I stay on top of it, work with the coaching staff and just go from there, it's been nice."

"With Torey, it's about defending at a higher level, because we know he can really move pucks and put up points, and he wants to prove that he can play those higher end minutes and I think he can," said Chiarelli. "But this gives a good platform for it - so he's on a one year [deal], shows what he can do this year and next year, and then you know, you see where he fits as far as maybe a top-four."

Smith had 185 NHL regular season games in his repertoire heading into the matchup on March 7, with 35 goals and 60 assist for 95 points. He put up a 20-goal season in 2013-14, his first full 82-game season. Through 63 games in 2014-15, he had 12 goals and 23 assists for 35 points.

It's been a down year for Smith, points-wise, but then again, the entire team has struggled offensively this season.

"There was a period where I think we were all struggling, but he's a 20-goal scorer and he's a very smart player, he mans the power play and he's one of our leading scorers, and he's a good young player," said Chiarelli. "When I mention Reilly's struggles, I'm referring to a period this year where I think he and a lot of players were slumping, as was the team."

"He's playing our top-six and I know he's had a little bit of a struggle for a short time there, but he's a good player who's only getting better."

Smith is hoping he can make a stronger push offensively, as the Bruins continue to push to the playoffs.

"Just having more patience in front of the net," said Smith. "You know, the play is there and when your team's struggling to score goals, your first instinct is to shoot the puck as fast as you can, but there's times where, if you have little extra patience, you can make an extra play and set up something a little easier."

"So I think that's one part of my game I'm trying to focus on right now, especially as our team goes through this stretch."

Smith's bench boss assessed his growth, factoring in the struggles that have been team-wide this season.

"They've improved," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "I mean, anybody that comes in - Smith came in last year right out of the AHL and had played very few games in the NHL, and had a good year. This year, he may look a lot like the same player but we're going through different struggles as well, so it's maybe easy to judge that way as far as his game is concerned."

"He's still putting up some points, where we're not a team that has been scoring a ton, but to just put the blame on him - it's a team thing right now where we've had struggles along the way."

The timing of the extensions isn't necessarily planned. Both parties agreed to the deals, and it sets up Krug and Smith for some security, and maybe peace of mind, as they push to the postseason, hope to make a run and then return for the 2015-16 season without having to wait until midway through training camp to put pen to paper.

"I think it's more for them than anybody else, it gives them security," said Julien. "We've got two players that are here now and you don't have to worry about it over the summertime whether they'll be with you or whether they'll be staying behind, so right now, no doubt they should be at training camp and ready to play at least another year or two for us."

While the salary cap for 2015-16 is not yet known, Chiarelli is confident in where these salaries will fit in moving forward.

"There's so many balls in the air, as far as committed salaries. It's planning that we look into and that we do, from what the term is, what the number is - we look at a ton of different scenarios as to who might be on our roster next year," said the GM. "These numbers fit in, and they fit in well."

"You know, last year the way things went, and it was a long summer and it was kind of hanging over my head for a while," said Krug. "So to be able to go into the end of this season and just concentrate and put all my focus and energy on the games and then not have to worry about it in the summer, it's a good feeling."

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