BOSTON – David Krejci didn’t have any trouble finding his way around Warrior Ice Arena, but with so many new faces around since he last roamed the hallways in the spring of 2021, the veteran centerman still had plenty to get used to when he arrived in Brighton on Monday morning.
“Pretty cool,” Krejci said with a beaming smile. “I was really excited just meeting all the guys and obviously a lot of new faces, not just the players but the coaching staff and the organization as well. So, it was really nice…it was a good first day.”
A first day unlike any other for the 36-year-old, who is returning to the Bruins after a season of playing for Olomouc HC in his native Czechia. Nearly a calendar year after departing the only NHL team he has ever known, Krejci opted to come back to the Black & Gold for a 16th season when he inked a one-year contract with Boston early last month.
“I always put the highest expectations on myself and this year is no different,” said Krejci. “I worked very hard in the summer. I probably had the longest summer I had in a long time, and I was skating quite a bit as well. So, I feel good now. We’ll see how that goes.”
While contemplating whether to return, Krejci had a number of conversations with Patrice Bergeron – his longtime running mate down the middle of the ice, who made his own decision to return this season – as the two imagined what it might be like to run it back for yet another season together.
“I talked to Bergy a few times before we started working on the deal with my agent and Don [Sweeney],” said Krejci. “It’s nice when a player like Bergy calls you and tells you all about the expectations and what he’s thinking and stuff like that, that’s nice. That’s what you want. If somebody wants you, that’s what you want, that’s what you want to hear.
“And same with Don and Cam [Neely]. And when they called me, I felt that they thought I can make a difference and they really want me on this team and it was mutual so it wasn’t a very hard decision. And then I got my agent involved and then we got the thing done. I’m so super excited, super happy to be back here.”
Video: Krejci talks for the first time as he re-joins Bruins
Krejci also saw plenty of opportunity ahead.
“If you look at this whole season, there’s so many exciting opportunities, Winter Classic [at Fenway], obviously 1,000 games for the Bruins,” said Krejci, who enters the season having played 962 career games. “Lots of guys that I grew up with in the dressing room still here. There’s just so many things that I got excited about coming back. Playing with Pasta is one of them as well.”
Krejci had the chance to skate alongside Pastrnak during the 2022 IIHF World Championship back in May, as the duo teamed up to help Czechia capture a bronze medal. Despite often playing on separate lines during Krejci’s first stint with the Bruins, the chemistry between the two was evident on the world stage.
“It seemed like I played with him the whole season,” said Krejci. “We just have a good chemistry and we don’t need to practice much together. We just go out there and do our thing.”
That report is likely to be repeated in Black & Gold with new head coach Jim Montgomery hinting over the summer that Krejci could have Pastrnak and Taylor Hall on his wings to begin the 2022-23 campaign.
“That would be obviously awesome,” said Krejci. “Two of the best players in the league and if I get a chance to play with them or at least one of them, then that’d be great. We’ll try to obviously talk a lot, but I played with both in the past.
“The chemistry shouldn’t be a problem, just kind of get up to speed and talk a lot in the room and on the ice but I think I’ll be fine.”
Krejci is confident in his own game and how he stacks up against NHL competition given how he fared both at the World Championship and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“I felt good the whole year and I felt very good at the Olympics,” said Krejci. “We lost to Switzerland, unfortunately, but I felt good. I felt like I was one of the better players in the tournament or in the whole season last year and then the World Championship as well. So that was kind of a reminder that I still have it.
“I feel great. I love the game. And yeah, when Pasta came, we would play some good hockey and kind of that was maybe the point that I started thinking about maybe I’ll make a comeback. And then when the Bruins called , it just kind of went from there.”
And where he goes from here? That’s a discussion for down the road.
For now, Krejci is just delighted to be back in the Spoked-B.
“The older you get…you just kind of play it out, see how you feel, see if people still want you or not,” said Krejci. “But that’s maybe the beauty of it because you don’t know what’s going to happen next year, so you’re trying to take the most out of the opportunity you have in front of you. And whatever happens after it happens, you know ?It’s out of your hands.
“You’re just focusing on having a really good year and trying to have fun as well because I did miss it when I was in Europe – although I had fun, but it was different.”
Talks Continue with Pastrnak
Speaking from Buffalo ahead of the finale of the Prospects Challenge on Monday morning, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said that while he remains in communication with Pastrnak’s camp – chiefly agent JP Barry – regarding a contract extension, there is no timetable yet on a potential resolution .
“I think Pasta was pretty clear in what was going on for him this summer and where things were at and we were as well indicating that we would like to find the common ground,” said Sweeney. “JP and I are gonna work hard to try and do that. There’s never been a timetable. I know other people have sort of tried to put one on there, that’s just not how it works.
“I admit I’d like to have things always buttoned up before we even worry about entering a last year. But sometimes it’s just a little more of an organic process and we’ll continue to work on it and communicate. JP and I have a good relationship that way. Happy to see Pasta back and ready to go.”
Right on Target
Matt Grzelcyk, Brad Merchantand Charlie McAvoy skated separately from the main group at Captains’ Practice on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena and, per Sweeney, continue to be within their original timelines for a return to action.
“All the guys are on the ice, progressing comfortably within the timeline that was originally laid out,” said Sweeney. “Other than that, we’re just gonna cross our fingers that it continues that way. You always hope that guys are back earlier, but that’s not how we work. We make the best decision for the player and what the training staff, medical staff ultimately makes the final decision on.
“Grzelcyk is ahead of where both Charlie and Brad are, but good to see them all on the ice and working their way back to hopefully full health and back as soon as possible. But again, the timeline has been laid out and the rehab and the medical staff dictates. Right now, they’re right on target.”
Wait, There’s More
- Sweeney said he expects to have around “58 players or so” at training camp when it opens later this week. “We’ve got a pretty good idea of what that group’s gonna look like coming out of today,” said Sweeney. “We’re gonna allow a lot of kids to graduate so that [Jim Montgomery’s] got really five lines and ideally 16 or 18 defensemen to blend in so he can run three days, four days before we have those first couple exhibition games of having two full groups and having a good practice but not having too many guys.”
- Sweeney said that the players at Rookie Camp on an invitation basis (James Hardie, Ryan Humphrey, Keltie Jeri-Leon, and Brayden Schuurman) will return to their junior teams. “Some of the teams are playing this weekend. Some of them were playing leading in, that’s why [Brett] Harrison wasn’t here; he unfortunately got injured,” said Sweeney.
- When it comes to where former first-round pick Fabian Lysell plays this season – Boston, Providence, or Vancouver (WHL -, Sweeney indicated that the winger, who impressed at the Prospects Challenge, will determine that by his performance during training camp. “It hasn’t been determined where he’s gonna play,” said Sweeney. “It looks like he’s ready to play at the pro level. But let’s see how camp is, how exhibition season is, and see how he holds up. We ideally would like to see him play pro this year, but again, there’s nothing set in stone that it has to be that way.”
- Sweeney said that there was potentially one player still on the market that the team is considering bringing into camp on a PTO (Professional Tryout Agreement): “We’ve got a final decision to make. I don’t know right now,” said Sweeney. “There’s one that’s pending. We’ve talked to several different guys and some have made choice to go elsewhere for other opportunity. Right now, I’m not. But there’s one that’s hanging out there.”