With the news that the NHL salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season, the thinking is that it's bad news for pending unrestricted free agents as teams now won't have as much cap space as they were planning to have.
Barring an unexpected extension between now and the end of the season, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug will be one of the top UFAs on the market, but he's not striking a pessimistic tone, or even approaching his situation any differently.
"I don’t think it’s changed really," Krug said of his approach. "I think I’m in a very unique situation being such a dynamic player, that I’m not too concerned about what’s going to change. I haven’t thought too much differently about it. I’m kind of just taking the same approach. ... My situation remains the same, and what I’m looking for, that remains the same as well. You’re kind of conscious of the whole situation, but that’s kind of the scenario that’s playing out right now."
In fact, Krug viewed the return to play plan and extension of the collective bargaining agreement as a positive overall.
"As far as the CBA, I was on every single one of those phone calls and going through the different scenarios. It was a good deal for us to get something to protect ourselves in the short term in order to have long-term success as a league," he said. "I thought it was a good deal. I’m happy that both sides ratified it so we can move on here."
On Sunday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he would be willing to talk with the Bruins' pending free agents during Phase 3 and Phase 4 this summer, but that he wouldn't be overly aggressive about it.
It sounds like Krug is taking the same approach. He said Monday that's he never been opposed to talking at any point, but that once games start he'll be completely focused on that.
"I’ve said all along I’ve been very comfortable. I don’t treat negotiations a lot like other guys do," Krug said. "I don’t really believe in playing the games and this and that and waiting things out. But once the puck drops and we start playing hockey games, I’m just going to focus on that. Anything leading up to that point, we’ll see if anything can work out.
"Once we drop the puck, I’m going to focus on that and we’ll have to re-evaluate things afterwards. But I’ve always been comfortable with it, and nothing changes how I approach each individual game and each individual shift. I’ve never done anything out of the ordinary to worry about that. I just let my play do the talking."
Krug did acknowledge that there's some extra risk being a free agent returning to play right now, though. There could be an increased risk of injury given the quick ramp-up to playoff-level hockey, and of course there's the risk of contracting COVID-19 and getting sick.
"Being a free agent that goes into this situation, it’s risky. I’d be lying to you if I said it’s not," Krug said. "Having three, four months off and then going right into the most intense hockey you can possibly play at any level. There’s always risk for injury no matter when you play, but certainly in this moment you don’t have the normal training that you do, the preparation, all the work to make sure your body is good and you can go in there without any worries."
That said, Krug never really gave serious consideration to sitting out, because the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup outweighs other concerns.
"Any time you have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, I think you take it every time you get it," he said. "Hopefully we can do that as a group and enjoy each other’s company in the bubble up there and hopefully come home with something you can hang your hat on."