The Boston Bruins plan to begin contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent defensemen Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, but general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday he is unsure if the sides will be able to come to a deal.
"We haven't found a landing spot," Sweeney said of Krug in particular. "I would hope that I'll make the moves to be able to accommodate what he and his family and agent feel that he has earned. I would be the last person to begrudge any player trying to make the best decision they can make for their family.
"In a perfect world it's with us, but we know that the world is anything but perfect right about now."
Sweeney said he would be starting negotiations with all of Boston's pending free agents in the upcoming weeks. With the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season, and the Bruins also needing to sign pending restricted free agents forward Jake DeBrusk and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, there may not be a lot of room for many new contracts.
Krug said last week he would like to return to the Bruins but is not willing to sign a one-year contract like he did for 2014-15 and 2015-16 before signing a four-year contract with an annual average value of $5.25 million in 2016 that is about to expire.
"I'm very opposed to that," the 29-year-old said. "I've bet on myself. I've taken shorter-term deals, less amount of money my whole career now. This is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I have the ability, I'm in a position now where I need to make the most of it."
Team president Cam Neely, a former NHL player, said Thursday he understood Krug's approach to free agency.
"Being a player, you certainly understand where the players' heads are at times and I don't begrudge Torey," Neely said. "If we can't work something out that makes sense for him and his family, I do not begrudge him for looking to see if he can get a better deal elsewhere. I mean we love Torey. We love what he's brought to the organization both on and off the ice. He's turned into a fabulous leader for us. But at the end of the day both sides have to do what they feel is right, us for the organization and Torey for him and his family."
Krug scored 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) in 61 games this season, with 28 on the power play, and had six assists in 13 postseason games. He has 337 points (67 goals, 270 assists) in 523 games with the Bruins.
Chara, at 43 the oldest player in the NHL, said last week he is committed to returning for a 23rd season. He has played the past 14 seasons in Boston, where he has been captain since arriving in 2006. He's played 1,553 games, 15th in NHL history, and has 656 points (205 goals, 451 assists). He scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 68 regular-season games and had two assists in 13 postseason games.
"I believe that I can still play this game and contribute to the team," Chara said last week. "I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin."
Chara signed one-year contracts in March of 2018 and 2019 but did not do so in 2020 because of the NHL season being paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Chara's minutes have lessened as he has gotten older, but he remains important in a shutdown and penalty-kill role.
"I respect Zdeno's comments," Sweeney said. "He's been an iconic player for us, an important player for us. We're going to explore our opportunity with he and our players that either are UFA or RFA status and hopefully check off the boxes like we have with several other players and continue to move forward and improve our hockey club, and addressing Zdeno's contractual situation is part of that process."
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Sweeney said he no reservations about Tuukka Rask returning to the Bruins after the goalie opted out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Aug. 15, before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Carolina Hurricanes, to be with his family. Rask has one season left on his contract.
The Bruins defeated the Hurricanes in five games, but lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Rask is expected to be Boston's No. 1 goalie next season, backed up by Jaroslav Halak. Rask was voted a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL after going 26-8-6 with a 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and five shutouts in 41 regular-season games. In four postseason games, he went 1-3-0 with a 2.57 GAA and .904 save percentage.
"If you look at Tuukka's actual play ... for me that pretty much dictates everything," Sweeney said. "Obviously his own personal life, we all have matters that at times we have to deal with and he's been given the opportunity in a couple of these instances to make sure that he feels good on and off the ice.
"I think any player, any manager or any person involved in sport or in life would respect and has to respect that people have to tend to their own personal business. How he chooses to do that is his own decision and his alone. We provide resources for all of our players to work through any issues that they may or may not have on or off the ice and provide support accordingly and we're not going to deviate from that. You have to respect his privacy and allow him the latitude to take care of it and ultimately it hasn't affected his play."