Ryan: What does future hold for Bruins if Torey Krug is playing elsewhere in 2021?

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a perfect scenario, Torey Krug wouldn't even be fielding questions about his future in the first week of September. 

But of course, this year has been anything but perfect, and any hopes or expectations of a normal offseason for the pending free agent back in July were negated in a hurry after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered down the league — and society in general — back in March. 

Of course, all of those frustrations for the 29-year-old blueliner would likely be negated if this tumultuous stretch ended with Krug remaining in the only NHL organization that he’s ever known for the foreseeable future. 

But even that scenario — one that he himself has pushed for since as early as last June — seems more like wishful thinking than the storybook narrative Krug is hoping for. 

"The contact (talk) was very, very few and far between, for whatever reason," Krug said. "It is what it is. As far as what it looks like, I don’t really know what the future holds in terms of the coming weeks. Free agency isn’t until about I think a week after the season ends in terms of the Stanley Cup being awarded. We’ll see. I guess there is a lot of time between now and then. I’m not really sure what the future holds and I’m willing to sit back and see what happens here."

While Boston values Krug's prowess on the power play and his often undervalued role as a leader in a dressing room filled with established veteran talent, it remains to be seen if the Bruins — looking to max out this current Cup contention window while keeping tabs on the future — will be willing to offer Krug a hefty payday with term. Ultimately, it might be the latter that serves as the sticking point for both parties, especially if a smaller defenseman (who takes a lot of punishment) like Krug begins to take a step back just a few years into a major extension.

For Krug, finding the right fit is obviously going to be crucial going into free agency. But even if Boston has served as a home for him and his family for years now, don't expect him to take another bridge deal or one-year, "prove it" contract in order to assuage some of the Bruins' worries about his long-term outlook. Krug has been down the road plenty of times before — given that he signed one-year extensions in 2014 and 2015 before eventually inking a short-term, four-year deal in June 2016.

"I’m very opposed to that," Krug said of taking a short-term deal. "I’ve bet on myself and I’ve taken shorter-term deals and less amount of money my whole career now. This is my time in terms of my value at its peak and I have the ability and I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it. I’m very opposed to something like that. I’ve done it long enough now. That’s the situation I’m facing."

More than ever before, it seems as though Krug — the Bruins' all-time leading scorer for an American-born player — might have to accept a future in which he's donning a different sweater for the second half of his career.

If such is the case, what will a Bruins team without a player like Krug look like going forward?

Finding a new power-play quarterback

When it comes to on-ice production, the loss of Krug will almost certainly be felt on the man advantage — where Krug has established himself as one of the top power-play maestros in the league for years now.

Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, there have only been four defensemen (John Carlson, Keith Yandle, Brent Burns and Tyson Barrie) that have logged more power-play ice time that Krug during the regular season (733:45). Only Carlson has more points among D-men during that stretch, while Krug (82 total points) leads all blueliners (min. 500 minutes of 5v4 TOI) with an individual points per 60 minutes rate of 6.71.

Boston has plenty of dangerous weapons on the power play, but Krug is often the engine that makes that top unit roll — whether it be uncorking shots from the blue line, or operating down on the half wall in search of a seam pass into Grade-A ice.

It is to be expected that Boston's power play — which often serves as its primary conduit of offense given the club's inconsistent 5v5 scoring output — will take a bit of a step back with Krug potentially no longer in the fold. But all is not potentially lost when it comes to the B's power play soldiering on without No. 47 on the blue line.

If Krug is playing elsewhere in 2021, expect