Veteran David Krejci has returned to the Boston Bruins for a 16th season following a year away in his native Czechia.
The 36-year-old joins Captain Patrice Bergeron, 37, in signing a one-year contract with the B's but will it be a successful swansong for the pair or has their time to try and win a second Stanley Cup together now run out?
|What:||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Canada|
|When:||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch:||bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds:||COL Avalanche 17/4, TOR Maple Leafs 8/1, FLA Panthers 9/1, TB Lightning 10/1, CAR Hurricanes 11/1|
Having contributed 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) and won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL last season, there's no question about Bergeron's ability to be a key player for the Bruins in 2022/23, with them 25/1 to win the Stanley Cup.
More questions surround Krejci, who scored 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) with HC Olomouc last season and left the NHL on the back of a 44-point season (eight goals, 36 assists).
While it's clear his best playing days are behind him, there's little doubt the player can again be a consistent performer for the Bruins in all three zones and continue to produce when they need him the most.
An associate Captain in Czechia last season and for many years with the Bruins, Krejci's biggest influence may be off the ice.
He is an excellent leader who is well respected, and his work ethic and preparation will set a good example for the younger Bruins to follow.
The Bruins finished fourth in the Atlantic Division last season (51-26-5) and were disappointingly beaten in the first round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes, losing in seven games.
Depth scoring was problematic for the Bruins, with only the top line of Bergeron (three goals, four assists), Brad Marchand (four goals, seven assists) and David Pastrnak (three goals, three assists) producing anything like their potential.
Jake DeBrusk (two goals, two assists), Taylor Hall (two goals, two assists) and Craig Smith (zero points) all failed to provide sufficient support.
The re-addition of Krejci will help the Bruins, assuming they make the playoffs, as that's where he raises his performances the most. From 2006/07 to 2020/21, Krejci had 124 points in the post-season (42 goals, 82 assists) in 156 appearances which, was the fifth-most in the league over that span.
Krejci also led the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring, and his offensive production was a huge factor in Boston winning the championship in 2011 and reaching the Cup Final again in 2013 and 2019.
Much of the talk surrounding Krejci's move back to Boston has involved Pastrnak, as the pair played and produced well together for the Czech Republic at the World Championships earlier this year.
While the two will share plenty of time on Boston's second line, the player who may stand to benefit the most from Krejci's return to the Bruins may well be Hall.
Now 30, the first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2010 was acquired by the Bruins in 2020/21 and was immediately placed on Krejci's left wing. This duo gelled right away, with Hall tallying 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 regular season games with Krejci.
That season, the Bruins outscored teams 14-1 while five-on-five when Krejci and Hall played together. Boston, 8/1 to take the Atlantic Division, played well with Hall on the ice last season, generally alongside Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula but the stats weren't nearly as impressive as when he was with Krejci.
Despite only scoring once five-on-five from the start of the season in October to the turn of the new year, Hall scored a respectable 20 goals, 41 assists in 81 games last season and back with Krejci, those numbers should rise further.
In the twilight of their careers, the only remaining members of Boston's 2011 championship team Krejci, Bergeron and Marchand have an unexpected opportunity to win again together.
The charge will be led by Jim Montgomery, who replaced Bruce Cassidy following his surprise firing.
Cassidy led the Bruins to the playoffs in each of his six seasons in charge, but the organisation felt it was time for a change following the recent playoff collapse.
Montgomery most recently served as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues. He was Head Coach of the Dallas Stars from 2018-2020 and led them to their first playoff appearance in three years.
Now recovered and committed to making the most of his second chance and with Krejci back in the fold to give him one of the most dangerous top six forward units in the NHL it's not unreasonable to think that the last chance saloon story could end a very happy one.