Kalman: Spotlight Shines On Warsofsky With Krug Missing From Bruins
BOSTON (CBS) -- In the battle of the Bruins against defenseman Torey Krug in contract negotiations, the club holds pretty much all the leverage.
Krug, an unsigned entry-level free agent who along with forward Reilly Smith did not report for the first day of training camp at TD Garden on Thursday, can't negotiate with another team and has no arbitration rights. Maybe the only glimmer of hope Krug and his representative have in terms of leverage is if Krug proves to be irreplaceable.
Should the Bruins find the players they have aren't sufficient to make up for the absence of Krug's offensive attributes, they might have to cave to the missing player. But that's where David Warsofsky, among others, comes in.
The 24-year-old Warsofsky, a 5-foot-9 left-shooting defenseman, might be the closest thing the Bruins have under contract to Krug. Without wishing for a long, fruitless negotiating period between the Bruins and Krug, Warsofsky knows this is his big chance to impress in training camp. For however long Krug is out of the lineup, Warsofsky might be able to fill the void.
"Yeah, I hope so. I don't know what the coaching staff's thinking but I hope I get those opportunities in the situations that he usually does play in. Hopefully I get that opportunity now," Warsofsky said after he and the rest of the Bruins had their off-ice testing.
Warsofsky, a fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2008, has served his apprenticeship with three full seasons with Providence of the American Hockey League. Last season he had 6-26-32 totals in 56 games for the P-Bruins. Chiarelli has since included Warsofsky in a group of "NHL-caliber" defensemen when discussing his team's roster several times during the offseason and on the first day of training camp.
Warsofsky enjoyed a mostly positive six-game stint in the NHL last season as well. He had a goal and an assist in six games. After Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, it appears that Warsofsky and Matt Bartkowski, who got a longer NHL look from the Bruins the past two seasons, are the top candidates to fill a left-side spot. Once on-ice practices begin Friday in Wilmington, it'll be up to Warsofsky to not get carried away with his pursuit of the job and just play his game.
"I mean I guess I've played in big games before. I played in the national championship, the world juniors and things like that," said Warsofsky, who won the gold medal with the U.S. WJC team in 2010 and the NCAA title with Boston University in 2009. "But for me, the way I do play, I think I just need to keep it simple. I think my instincts are more [important] than anything. I just need to let things happen out there, use my skating and my abilities and go from there and see what happens."
The desire for simplicity might be one major difference between Krug and Warsofsky. As Chiarelli explained it: "Torey I think pushes the puck decisions a little more aggressively. I think David goes with the flow a little bit more. They both defend positionally. Torey's a little more closing on defending, David's a little more positional."
When the Bruins plugged Krug's high-risk, high-reward game into their lineup during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the positive outweighed the negatives all the way through to the six-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup finals. During a 14-goal, plus-18 rookie regular season last year, Krug continued to be instrumental in the Bruins' success. Krug benefited from the coaching staff letting him be himself and to learn from his mistakes rather than pay for them with a cut in ice time or time in the press box. That same type of approach might allow Warsofsky to open up his game and make life without Krug easier for the Bruins.
"I think obviously Torey's proven himself that he can be an offensive defenseman at this level. His points show that and the way he played last year showed that," Warsofsky said. "So he has a little bit more trust than I think they have in me, but I don't think he was given that right away. He had to earn that from the coaching staff and I'm not afraid to do that and I'm going to play my game and hopefully slowly earn their trust also."
Along the way to earning the coaching staff's faith and claiming an NHL spot, Warsofsky can improve the Bruins' negotiating position. That's the payoff when prospects develop.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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