After Bruins general manager Don Sweeney completed contracts for restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo last week, attention instantly turned to defenseman Torey Krug, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 at age 29.
But Krug isn’t the only important Bruins player that could be extended as soon as this minute and be kept from UFA status. Center Charlie Coyle, who the Bruins acquired last season in a trade for prospect Ryan Donato, can be a 28-year-old UFA this summer.
The South Weymouth native, though, isn’t sweating out the prospect of finishing up his five-year, $16 million deal without knowing what’s on the other end of it.
“Yeah, well, I mean I’m under contract now, I’m playing, we’re getting going here, so that’s my main focus,” Coyle told WEEI.com Monday after a morning skate to prepare for Boston’s first home preseason game. “And that stuff will take care of itself whenever it happens, whenever we decide to talk and all that. So it’s something we’ve got to deal with, but I’m focusing obviously on preseason and having a good season and making the team. … Getting a good spot.”
Krug has already told pretty much anyone within earshot that he’ll be willing to take less than he could get on the open market in order to stay in Boston. The Michigan native has kind of become an adopted Bostonian.
Coyle, on the other hand, is living his dream of playing for his hometown team after having being property of San Jose and Minnesota. It could be difficult for Coyle to find leverage in talks with a team that knows how badly he wants to stay.
“I mean I’m very happy here. I love playing for this organization and this team, and just everything about it. Obviously going on a big run last year that helps just to love this place even more, and see what it’s like to go on those runs. It makes you want to win it that much better here, to do it here and make that happen. So I love it here,” he said.
His leverage will come from having a big season after impressing Boston with 16 points in 24 Stanley Cup playoff games last season. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci entering their mid-30s, and Krejci signed for just one more season after this one, Boston needs younger centers. If the amount of time coach Bruce Cassidy has spent talking about Coyle – in response to questions and unsolicited – this preseason is any indication, the Bruins are going to be hanging on to their hometown hero.
RFA check in
If Coyle’s leverage is reduced by being a hometown kid, how much does Matt Grzelcyk’s get diminished? The left-shot defenseman can be a RFA next summer.
The 25-year-old said he’s not thinking much about that, letting his agent take care of anything that comes up.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I mean I honestly I haven’t had that conversation at all with my agent or anything. For sure it’s something that I keep in mind,” Grzelcyk said. “It’s a huge privilege [to play at home> and I try not to take it for granted and hope that works out and we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the year.
“But I kind of told my agent that it’s something I don’t really want to have too many conversations about with him just because we have a lot to worry about this season just trying to get back to where we were last year. So I think when that day comes we’ll have that conversation. But for sure it’s awesome to play in my hometown. I think there’s kind of pros and cons that people talk about but it’s been nothing but awesome for me.”
McAvoy’s three-year, $14.7 million contract and Carlo’s two-year, $5.7 million contract came in under what many experts were predicting over the summer what those players would receive. Bridge deals have popped up all over the league, including in Tampa Bay, where the Lightning signed center Brayden Point to a three-year extension worth $20.5 million Monday.
But as far as the Bruins’ structure, McAvoy and Carlo may have made a statement about putting the team ahead of getting the maximum amount of money available. That’s one Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk, who will also be eligible for RFA status this summer, understand.
“I think all good teams do. I think all teams that win have to with the salary cap, and I think that’s just the business side of hockey. But in saying that, the amount of contracts or the money that’s getting thrown out there, I don’t think it really matters if it’s a little bit here, off there, we all want to stay together, we all want to stay as a group. I mean I understand that side as well,” DeBrusk said.
Said Grzelcyk: “I don’t know, I think it’s something, it’s kind of noted around here that everyone loves playing with each other and doesn’t want to mess anything up. I think at the end of the day, it’s obviously up to management kind of to figure out. But as players, I think we’re aware of the kind of situation that’s going on. I’m sure if you talk to anyone they would love to keep playing with each other for as long as possible. But yeah I think at the end of the day, it’s [rarely> happens, there’s always movement. But hopefully we can keep everyone together.”