The Boston Bruins cap situation isn't leaving them a lot of flexibility when it comes to re-signing the club's two big restricted free agents, offensive defenseman Torey Krug and 50-point man Reilly Smith. RFAs don't tend to have much flexibility in this instance either. Unless a team is going to sign them to an offer sheet, they're stuck with the club that holds their rights.
There are only a few ways to gain leverage in a situation like the one Krug and Smith are in. The first involves holding out until a more favorable agreement can be reached. That could mean lost training camp time, lost games in the season and some uncomfortable public pressure.
The other option, however, is one that appears to be available to Krug right now – offers from outside of the NHL.
According to CSN New England's Joe Haggerty, Krug has been offered a contract by an undisclosed KHL team.
A source with knowledge of Krug's negotiations told CSNNE.com that there's been a sizable offer made for the defenseman's services by an unidentified KHL team. The offer, according to the source, included a good chunk of money up front as a signing bonus.
When contacted by CSNNE.com, Krug's agent, Lewis Gross, wouldn't confirm, or deny, that the KHL offer existed, and instead offered an apologetic “no comment.”
This isn't necessarily surprising. The KHL has often looked to pry restricted free agents away from NHL teams as they are not technically under contract. It's one way around the agreement between the two sides to not poach players from each other.
Krug's puck-moving capabilities would be awfully attractive to teams in the KHL, as are the optics prying away a promising younger player away from the NHL.
The NHL and KHL recently extended a memorandum of understanding between the two sides that stipulates that each league respect the signed contracts of the other so as to avoid disputes in player transfers between the two leagues.
If Krug were to sign in the KHL, and that still seems like a longshot at this point, the Bruins would be able to retain his rights.
According to Haggerty, the Bruins are believed to be offering Krug somewhere in the $1.5 to $2.5 million range for about one to two years. The team is already over the cap heading into next season, though that will change once the club places Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve. Still, there's not much room to get deals done for both Krug and Smith.
Krug is coming off a stellar rookie campaign in which he broke Bobby Orr's franchise record for goals by a rookie defenseman with 14. He also had 40 points and finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting. Additionally, Krug has 16 points in 27 career playoff games.
He has grown into a valuable asset for the Bruins after signing as an undrafted free agent during the 2011-12 season. Krug may be protected in his usage, but that is what allows the undersized defenseman to maximize his offensive potential as he did last season.
Having lost Jarome Iginla under the cap crunch already, the Bruins surely can't lose another 40 points from their lineup. The chances that Krug bolts to the KHL seem awfully, awfully slim, but it's also not his problem that the Bruins are currently in a huge bind with their salary cap. He has to use whatever bit of leverage he can to get the best deal possible.
Perhaps it's just a ploy to get the Bruins moving more aggressively to getting a deal done, but whatever the case, Boston's summer has been one with many headaches and now they have another to add to the pile.