David Krejci and the Bruins jointly announced over the weekend that the Czech-born center will be returning to play in his home country after being a Bruin since 2007. Though often overshadowed by Patrice Bergeron, Krejci was a fantastic player and his exit is a major blow to the Bruins Stanley Cup chances. The biggest task that Don Sweeney will have the rest of this year is finding a suitable replacement.
Krejci finished his career with 215 goals and 515 assists. His ability to pass the puck exactly where it needed to be was uncanny and he was able to still put up consistent point numbers although he had inconsistent linemates from the 2014-15 season until the Taylor Hall acquisition at the 2021 trade deadline.
When it came to the postseason, Krejci elevated his game. During the 2011 championship run, Krejci led the entire playoff field in scoring with 23 points. Two years later, Krejci again led the playoffs in scoring with another 23 points while helping the Bruins reach their second Stanley Cup Final in three years. Krejci also had double digit points in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 playoffs even though the Bruins were eliminated in the second round in 2018 and 2020.
Krejci was also a leader on and off the ice in Boston. He served as an alternate captain and his steady, calm demeaner helped set a great example for many teammates over the years. Krejci was also a better defender than given credit for, finishing in the top 12 in Selke voting twice in his career. He was never the defensive presence that Bergeron was and is, but he was solid and often better than solid.
Currently, the most logical in-house option for the Bruins would be to promote Charlie Coyle to second line duties. Coyle looked like a second line center during the 2019 playoffs, but since then has been inconsistent offensively and looks like a better fit as a third line center. If Coyle moves up to the second line, he and Taylor Hall will have to work to develop similar chemistry to Krejci and Hall, but reaching that level will be an uphill battle.
Trading for Jack Eichel is a dream for Bruins fans, but right now that looks more like a pipe dream than a real one. Boston has some good trade chips for Eichel, but Vegas can offer a better package to Buffalo. Outside of Eichel, the options to replace Krejci with an equal caliber player are slim.
The Bruins certainly have their work cut out for them when it comes to replacing their No. 2 center. Don Sweeney has made it known he wants to try to win another Stanley Cup with the current core, but Krejci’s departure puts that out of reach at the moment. In order for Boston to hoist the Cup once again, they will need to find a second line center, and do it fast.