That doesn’t guarantee that Krejci and Bergeron won’t return. But the retirement rumors will continue to swirl until two of Boston’s marquee centermen confirm one way or another.
At the same time, the Bruins have to plan ahead, with or without two of their top centermen in team history.
“For us, we’ve really got to plan that they’re not coming back until we hear otherwise,” Bruins President Cam Neely said. “We would not be doing the organization a service if we planned that they are coming back and then we’re told they’re not. So, for us, it’s kind of going down two paths. Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon, but we certainly want to give those guys the time they need.”
As Bergeron and Krejci enter another off-season pondering over their futures, the Bruins enter this summer with an entirely different outlook.
At this time last year, the Bruins had most of their roster intact before the start of free agency. Their only significant transaction came on Day 1 of the free agent signing period, acquiring Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils for Erik Haula.
Bergeron had leaned on returning anyway. Krejci also had his eyes set on another go-around after spending a season playing in his native Czech Republic.
Yet, Sweeney admits their decisions won’t impact the Bruins’ plans ahead of the noon opening for this year’s free agent class. For that matter, Bergeron remains flexible on potentially returning under a similar bonus-incentive contract similar to last season, according to Sweeney.
“It really doesn’t [affect us],” Sweeney said. “You can tell where Patrice was last year in what we were trying to accomplish in bringing Krech back and being very, very flexible. He’s indicated that he’s willing to do it again this year, so I don’t foresee it as a problem.”
On Monday, the Bruins began the cap-shedding process after trading Taylor Hall — and his $6 million cap hit for the next two seasons — and Nick Foligno to the Chicago Blackhawks for defensemen Ian Mitchell and Alec Regula, both pending RFAs. The Bruins now have a little over $10.9 million of projected salary cap space and 14 players committed for next season.
The departures from last year’s squad will likely continue, with Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway and Tomas Nosek all set to hit the open market. Even with the extra cap space, Boston’s GM didn’t sound optimistic about re-signing Orlov, Bertuzzi, Hathaway and Nosek.
“None of those guys have necessarily been closed off,” Sweeney said. “Obviously, we recircled with most of them based on our decision [to trade Hall and Foligno] yesterday. I haven’t really concretely put anything together that we’ll be able to…but you just never know.”
Perhaps Sweeney will gain more financial relief through another trade, with Linus Ullmark and Matt Grzelcyk among the other cap casualty candidates. They may also pursue the trade market — primarily for a top-six center — to help ease the transition of the post-Krejci and Bergeron era.
In part, the Bruins’ hands remain tied due to Bergeron’s and Krejci’s bonus overages carrying over to this year’s cap. But a similar bonus-incentive deal next season will likely carry a lesser burden thanks to a projected salary cap ceiling increase of up to $4 million for the 2024-25 season.
Indeed, Neely and Sweeney would love to have Bergeron and Krejci back for one more attempt at the Cup. But Boston’s front office must also act accordingly in case the duo decides to hang up the skates.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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