For years Jack Edwards, the voice of the Boston Bruins, and local beat writers have told Bruins fans here and everywhere, with a full throat, that our lineup is “deep down the middle.” And we, the Bruins faithful, believed it because why wouldn’t we? I mean, for all intents and purposes, we were—from Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron to David Krejci and Greg Campbell and the rest of it. We were deep at the center position like a Maya Angelou stanza, deep like a Barry White ballad.
Yet ten years after winning the 2011 Stanley Cup, Bruins fans find themselves coming to the harsh realization that the best days of Bergeron and Krejci, our only remaining skilled centers, are numbered, literally.
Case in point, Bergeron turns 36 this July, and Krejci just turned 35 this past April. And while it is true that former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall helped resurrect Krejci from the dead, offensively, that does not change the fact that Krejci, like Bergeron, has a whole lot of mileage on him after 15 years (so far) in the NHL.
However, Krejci’s recent musings about wanting to finish his playing career in his native Czech Republic due to family reasons have become as loud as his stated disinterest to play anywhere else in the league but Boston.
And so, if you’re like me, and you know how to read the room and you can see the writing on the wall then you know that #37 and #46, respectively, are not going to be sporting the eight spoked-B much longer. In addition, the same could, and in many cases, should be true for the centers playing behind them as well.
Case in point, Charlie Coyle, the resident third-line center (and Krejci’s supposed heir apparent), has routinely been a hit or miss—usually a miss—since the B’s traded for him from Minnesota in 2019. Earlier this year, in April, the Bruins signed him to a six-year $31.5 million contract. Now, when we break that down a little, that is $2.6 million a month to a guy who scored 20 goals in a season once for a different team and is yet to do so as a Bruin, but I digress.
After that, there is Curtis Lazar and Sean Kuraly. Regarding Lazar, despite losing the offensive touch he wielded back in major junior once he got to the NHL, Lazar nevertheless still has youth and energy on his side. Give him equally energetic wingers with a bit more skill and he could be the permanent answer for the B’s at center on the fourth line.
But Sean Kuraly is not it (and I discussed this at length a few weeks back here), he’s just not, he reached his ceiling about a year or two ago, Bruins management and fans, myself included, just didn’t realize it. And, unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, the end result becomes crystal clear, especially after this past season: Kuraly is a J.A.G, as in, just another guy.
But the crux of why the Bruins are whey they are, at center, is entirely to do to the brutal fact that the Bruins front office did not and have not drafted well at that (and other positions, for that matter) for about a decade. Hence, why the Bruins’ talent pool at center has completely and utterly dried up, to begin with.
While the B’s veteran pivots age ever so closer to the end of their careers. Indeed, because not a single center on the P-Bruins is projected to be a full-time top-six forward who is capable of replacing Bergeron or Krejci this upcoming season or beyond. Not a single one.
This and all the reasons preceding it are exactly why Bruins GM Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely must absolutely go after Jack Eichel this offseason. And since a young, uber-talented #1 overall drafted centerman is not walking through the Bruins locker room door any time soon, a trade or free agency is the only way in which they will attain their next franchise centerman. The kind that will help carry them for the next decade and change like Bergeron and Krejci did for the last one.
Moreover, not only does acquiring the 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner greatly make up for the Bruins 2015 draft, but also, firmly addresses the question of Krejci in one acquisition. However, if Eichel’s cap hit of $10M is an issue for the Bruins, then the solution is clear: trade DeBrusk (and his $3.6M cap hit) to, let’s say, Edmonton, for defenseman Adam Larsson or winger Jesse Puljujarvi and some draft picks.
Then let Krejci walk away (he’s probably not coming back anyway), which frees up another $7M, and boom, there’s the $10M to allocate toward, potentially, signing Eichel or whatever dollar amount that doesn’t exceed that Sweeney can get him to agree to.
But beyond that, if you’re the Bruins and you know you need a player like Eichel at center way sooner rather than later, then you already know that trading for him or not is NOT a real debate to be had or a real choice to be made. And it can’t be, given the current state of the Bruins, because for the Black and Gold there is no debate, because you have no choice.
Trade Pastrnak (his numbers are inflated because of who he plays with) and get Eichel (he put up 70+ and 80+ point seasons playing on a team with almost no help). Otherwise, when Bergeron retires and Coyle is the B’s next #1 center, none of us have any right to complain, especially when the path to Eichel is this clear and the need for him, or a center like him, on the Bruins first line even more so.