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Krug's gamble pays off with Bruins

Defenseman signs four-year contract; Boston buys out Seidenberg's deal

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- For a player on a one-year contract - and then another one-year contract - to establish himself firmly in a city is rare, even if that player is still young, a restricted free agent. There are always contingencies, always chances of trades and deals and moving on. 

But Torey Krug bet on Boston, remaining in the city in the offseason, naming his dog Fenway, and bet on himself, an undersized, undrafted free agent. And that faith, in his abilities and in the match with the Boston Bruins, was rewarded on Thursday, as they signed him to a four-year contract worth $21 million. 

"Coming through the playoffs that one year when I got called up [in 2012-2013], I absolutely fell in love with the city," Krug said on a conference call Thursday. "That's one of the reasons I stay here in the offseason when a lot of players go back to their hometowns and it's just unbelievable. There's no greater feeling than winning in this city.

"I know I haven't been able to accomplish my ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup, but it's something that I want to do here and I think that the first step is being here for four more years and having a crack at it."

But the Krug signing wasn't the only move Boston made on Thursday. It was a day when general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins started to remake the defense, after a season in which they underperformed in nearly all aspects with a group that was both aging and too young.

There were a few minor bright spots -- the continuing development of Krug, for one -- but the team and management acknowledged that the defense needed to be better, to do better. 

To that end, the Bruins cut ties with veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who had two years remaining on a four-year, $16 million contract. The latter move was a "very, very difficult decision," Sweeney said. "We've wrestled with this decision for quite some time."

That was the hard move. The easier one was locking down Krug, a player Sweeney said has a "very, very unique skill set that's important to our hockey club."

The 25-year-old offensive defenseman had an NHL career-high 44 points this season (four goals, 40 assists) in 81 games. He was tied for 19th in points among defensemen in the League, and ninth in assists. And that all came after he signed a one-year contract in March of 2015. It was his second straight one-year deal, this one worth $3.4 million. 

Krug believed that he could prove himself worthy of a long-term, big-money commitment. That gamble paid off Thursday, one day before NHL free agency opens, as Krug signed a contract that appears to work well for both sides. It also has some protection for Krug, with a limited no-trade clause in the final two years of the contract, according to Sweeney. Those otherwise would have been unrestricted free agency years.

"He does things the right way every time he comes to the rink and he wants to get better," Sweeney said. "He's not satisfied, all the things you want other young players to identify with, which is something that we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group."

Video: Torey Krug talks about his new contract with Bruins

And, given his play last season and the Bruins' options on defense, Krug should get his wish of a permanent position in the top four, likely alongside Adam McQuaid on the Bruins' second pair, barring a major trade or free agent signing for Boston. 

He is a crucial piece of the defense, with the ability to get the Bruins going, and even more crucial as the quarterback of the power play. He scored one goal and had 18 assists on the power play this season, leaving him tied for ninth in the NHL among defensemen in the latter category. Krug also logged the second-most time on ice of any Bruin, at 21:36 in all situations, with only Zdeno Chara playing more (24:05). 

While the new contract was a bit of good news in this offseason, it hasn't all been good for Krug. He underwent surgery on his right shoulder on Apr. 21, which came with an expected six-month recovery time. 

Krug said Thursday he is pushing to be on the ice for the season opener in Columbus on Oct. 13. He called that a "realistic goal."

There were also concerns about his goal-scoring, with Krug getting four goals this season after scoring 14 in 2013-2014 and 12 in 2014-2015. Krug shot 1.6 percent last season, far below his marks in previous seasons (7.7, 5.9). 

"We don't expect him to only score four goals next year," Sweeney said, acknowledging Krug's increased role and minutes might have been a factor. "I think he pops back up and scores back in the 14 range that he's had. We realize the more he's on the ice, the more we control the puck and move the puck. You understand where the game is going and he's a big part of our transition game." 

Video: DET@BOS: Krug smacks one-timer past Mrazek

The two moves -- Krug and Seidenberg -- were the first steps in trying to shore up the defense. There are more to come, including a possible re-signing of unrestricted free agent John-Michael Liles, the puck-moving defenseman acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline in February, and with whom Sweeney said the Bruins have had "very, very productive talks."

The Bruins will also turn to some young defensemen, likely including Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. But to find room for them, the Bruins decided they needed to cut ties with Seidenberg, who struggled through an injury-marred season and who will be 35 when the 2016-2017 season begins. 

Still, though, for the Bruins' cap situation, buying out Seidenberg is complicated, with reverberations for years to come. The buyout will cost the Bruins two-thirds of Seidenberg's salary over the next four seasons - which would have been $4 million each year for two years - costing them $1,166 million in cap space in 2016-2017, $2.166 million in 2017-2018, and $1.116 million in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

Asked whether he shopped Seidenberg, to allow the team to potentially eat salary and not have to buy him out, Sweeney said, "I would have considered all options from that standpoint. ... If we could have done it in a different fashion, we would have done it."

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