The Vancouver Canucks need to bolster their blue line. Here’s why GM Jim Benning should break the bank on Boston Bruins star Torey Krug.
Vancouver Canucks fans and general manager Jim Benning don’t need to be reminded about the looming salary cap crunch.
Coming off a trip to the Western Conference Semifinals, the Canucks have to make plenty of difficult decisions with free agency less than a month away. Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom, top-four blueliner Chris Tanev and top-six forward Tyler Toffoli are all pending UFAs.
Forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette — both coming off career years — and fan favourite and defenceman Troy Stecher are pending RFAs. There is no way of retaining all six of these key contributors.
But rather than try to keep as many of those players as possible, should Benning try something bold and pursue one of this year’s most prized free agents in Boston Bruins defenceman Torey Krug?
It sounds ludicrous at first, but hear me out.
Right now, all signs point toward Krug leaving the only NHL team he’s ever known. The Bruins are up against the cap, and Krug has made it clear that he wants a giant payday after taking several team-friendly deals to remain in Beantown.
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“I’ve bet on myself. I’ve taken shorter-term deals, less amount of money my whole career now,” Krug said following the Bruins second round elimination, via Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com. “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.”
Any lucrative free agent signing comes with a massive risk, but Krug feels like an exception.
He’s only 29 years of age, which is still relatively young for a defenceman in today’s NHL.
For the most part, Krug is very durable, having played 76-plus games every year from 2013-14 to 2017-18. He suited up for 61 of Boston’s 70 regular season games in 2019-20.
Not only that, but Krug’s production has been very consistent. He’s hit the 40-point mark in six different seasons, and he had a 39-point season in 2014-15. Krug recorded 50-plus points in three straight years from 2016-17 to 2018-19, and he would have hit that mark again in 2019-20 (49 points) if he played a full season.
If the Canucks were to theoretically sign Krug, that would likely mean losing Markstrom, Tanev and probably Toffoli and/or Stecher.
Regarding the future of his blue line, Benning has to look far ahead. The contracts of Alexander Edler and Jordie Benn are up after next year. Only Quinn Hughes (his entry-level deal expires after next season) and Tyler Myers are in the long-term picture here.
Speaking of Hughes, imagine a blue line that consists of both he and Krug. This would give head coach Travis Green two elite puck-moving power play quarterbacks who are good for 50-plus points apiece.
The Canucks could let Benn and Edler walk next year and build their blue line around Krug, Hughes, Myers plus promising prospects Olli Juolevi, Jack Rathbone, Jett Woo and Jalen Chatfield.
Krug will likely cost close to $7 million annually, and the term would likely be five to seven years. But his production in Boston speaks for itself. He’s a big-time impact performer with a knack for coming up in the clutch, as evidenced by his 52 points in 75 career playoff games.
If the Canucks are unable to come to terms with most of their key pending free agents, Benning has every reason to make a push for Krug — who could be the final piece needed in a championship puzzle.