Part of the Boston Bruins' success over the past few seasons can be attributed to their strong defense, a unit that features veterans Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. When the NHL was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, Boston ranked first in the league with only 2.39 goals allowed per game.
However, the Bruins could undergo some defensive changes as soon as next season. Chara is 43 and likely nearing the end of his career, while Krug is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
One obstacle that Boston may have to overcome in order to bring back Krug is the uncertain salary-cap situation. It's possible the pandemic will cause it to stay the same, or barely go up, for the 2020-21 season, which may make it difficult for some teams to retain some of their top players with expiring contracts.
Here's the latest buzz surrounding Krug's situation with the Bruins and other free-agency topics.
Where do Krug, Bruins currently stand?
It's easy to see why Krug would want to return to the Bruins, as well as why they would want him back. He's been a solid part of their defense the last seven seasons, helping them reach the playoffs the last three years and get to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
However, according to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, Krug and the Bruins "have been talking about a long-term contract, but they haven't been able to find common ground."
McDonald added that Krug is likely in line to eventually become Boston's captain if he stays but that he also "might not have a future" with the team.
The unclear salary-cap situation will likely also come into play. McDonald noted the 29-year-old "would have to sign a hometown discount in order to continue [in Boston], and a lot of currently unknowable things need to be sorted out for him to return."
Before the season was suspended, Krug was on pace to play at least 64 games for the seventh straight season. He was also one point away from tallying at least 50 points for the fourth straight year.
So, if Krug returns to the Bruins, they should continue to get consistent play from him as he enters the next stage of his career. That's also why other teams will likely have interest should he hit the free-agent market this offseason.
Kovalchuk may return to Montreal for 2020-21 season
Although Ilya Kovalchuk recently turned 37, he doesn't appear to be nearing the end of his NHL career just yet. However, he might be changing teams again before the 2020-21 season arrives.
According to Eric Engels of Sportsnet, it's "all but assured" that Kovalchuk will sign with the Canadiens this offseason when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The left-winger played 22 games for Montreal earlier this season before he was traded to Washington on Feb. 23.
Kovalchuk opened the 2019-20 campaign with the Kings, but he was released on Dec. 16 after tallying nine points (three goals and six assists) in 17 games. He signed with the Canadiens on Jan. 3 and had 13 points (six goals and seven assists), and then he had a goal and three assists over his seven games with the Capitals.
A two-time All-Star and former Richard Trophy winner, Kovalchuk has proved he can still be a contributor at this point in his career. However, Engels did note "a lot can happen" between now and the free-agency period.
So while it seems probable Kovalchuk will be back in Montreal, there's still time for things to change.
What other moves could Canadiens make this offseason?
Last week, the Canadiens announced they had signed goaltender Vasili Demchenko, a 26-year-old from the KHL, to a one-year deal for next season. However, Engels doesn't believe that he will be the only goalie signed by Montreal before the 2020-21 campaign.
Although Demchenko could prove he's worthy of being the Canadiens' backup to Carey Price, Engels wrote that he doesn't envision the team "turning their backs on the opportunity to add a veteran backup," especially with some strong goaltenders set to hit the free-agent market this offseason.
Anton Khudobin could be one target, as Engels noted, as the 33-year-old is set to hit free agency after spending the past two seasons with the Stars. He's a strong veteran who would certainly provide a boost to the Canadiens, if they could sign him to a deal.
Price has played 58 of Montreal's 78 games this season, while Charlie Lindgren and Keith Kinkaid both struggled in limited action. It would likely be beneficial for the Canadiens to find a reliable backup who can give Price some rest and still keep the team competitive in the starter's absence.