-- It turns out it wasn't the recent trade rumors that motivated Boston Bruins
center David Krejci
to break a nine-game goal drought and lead his team past the Toronto Maple Leafs
into first place in the Northeast Division Wednesday night.
It was actually his celebratory mood that inspired Krejci's 1-goal, 2-assist performance in the Bruins' 12th win in their last 13 games.
Scheduled to be a restricted free-agent next summer, David Krejci
will be now be staying put in Boston after agreeing to a three-year extension. (Photo: Bruce Bennett/NHLI)
The 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic had signed a three-year contract extension with the team in general manager Peter Chiarelli's hotel room prior to the game, it was revealed during a Thursday press conference at the TD Garden. Any distractions his uncertain status was causing Krejci during his recent scoring slump were wiped away with one stroke of the pen.
"Well, I know that my agent and Peter talked in the summer. I didn't know what was going on," said Krejci, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent next summer but will now make $5.25 million annually beginning next season. "Obviously, it was on my mind a little bit, especially when things weren't going my way at the beginning of the season. And it got me thinking, you know. But then we got a deal done and I'm happy to be here for more years and now I can just focus on hockey."
Boston has come to rely on Krejci as its No. 1 center ever since Marc Savard
's injury problems left a void. Last season, Krejci meshed with wingers Milan Lucic
and Nathan Horton
and shared the team scoring lead with Lucic with 62 points. He also boasted an impressive plus-23 rating.
In the playoffs, Krejci's star shone even brighter with 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games, including 2 goals and 6 points in the seven-game Stanley Cup Final victory that ended Boston's 39-year championship drought. Chiarelli says Krejci has grown in an all-round threat on his watch as GM.
"David's biggest asset is his head. He sees the ice so well, he makes plays, he uses the players around him," Chiarelli said. "He's very competitive. And he's got a very well-rounded game. I think his game is underrated by its two-way component. He's got a lot of real good offensive skills and instincts, but I think the two-way game [is underrated]. And I don't want to harp on that, but it's important if you want to win championships. And I think he takes pride in that.
"When he first started, his eyes were opened wide to what he had to do to get that element to his game. And he's worked at it. The last time we signed him I remember saying the same thing, and he's getting better at it. And now he's a very good two-way player and he can be a dimensional offensive play.
"And … he plays big at big times, which is important, too. He's got a real good clutch element to his game."
For Krejci, the decision to re-sign with Boston rather than see what he could get out on the open market -- which Chiarelli admitted might've been more than the Bruins could pay him -- was all about winning.
"Well that's pretty simple, I think. We won the Cup last year and I feel that this team can do it again, and I want to be part of it," he said. "It was a really great experience and I hope that I'll win it one more time. So I feel like I have a really good chance here with this team and that was the biggest reason."
"David's biggest asset is his head. He sees the ice so well, he makes plays, he uses the players around him. He's very competitive. And he's got a very well-rounded game." -- Peter Chiarelli
The signing of Krejci comes some 14 months after the Bruins re-signed center Patrice Bergeron
to a $5 million-per-year deal to keep him from unrestricted free agency. With 19-year-old natural center Tyler Seguin
flourishing in his second NHL season, but doing so on the wing, the Bruins seem to have a crowded middle. But their GM doesn't see it that way.
"I feel a team gets built from the back end and down the middle. And to have a strong middle is obviously an asset in my mind, and David's part of that," said Chiarelli, who also noted that the organization still hasn't determined whether Seguin will be a permanent center or winger in the future.
"David's shown that he can play different types of games. [Bergeron's] shown that he can play different types of games. … Tyler can play center, he can play wing. We've got a lot of options here. Chris Kelly
can play wing. We've got some good centers coming. I think a logjam is not the word. I think an excess of supply [is the term]. I'm happy to have it. And the fact that these guys are compatible and can play together and maybe not have the 22, 23 minutes that you see some of the top centers play, I think that's a testament to them, to all them, as a group."
With just 4 goals and 13 points on his ledger so far this season, Krejci obviously has room to improve as the Bruins attempt to defend the Cup. Once his new deal kicks in, he'll probably be asked to do even more in order to live up to the salary. Krejci foresees his development as an even better player moving full steam ahead.
"I think I'm still young and my game can grow in every situation," he said. "I can better, get stronger, faster, get a better shot. I think I'm just 25 and maybe my best years are still in front of me. I won't stop working. I'll keep working on my game and I'll try to get better every day."