BEIJING -- David Krejci could be in the NHL this season if he wanted. Instead, he's at the Olympics for a third time.
The Czech star wanted to play one more season at home in front of friends and family, and that decision has led him to Beijing. One of the most accomplished players in the tournament in the absence of NHL participation, Krejci is focused on representing the Czech Republic at the Olympics, though the possibility exists of a return to North America to rejoin the Boston Bruins later this season.
“Obviously if I had one year left on my deal, I would be in NHL now,” Krejci told The Associated Press this week. “It just kind of happened to work out that way. Things happen for a reason, I believe, so I’m here now. I’ll try to take the most out of this opportunity and what comes after this, we’ll see.”
Krejci put up 854 points in 1,112 NHL regular-season and playoff games and won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011. As recently as last year, he was almost a point-a-game player.
Now 35, Krejci has 17 goals and 19 assists in the Czech league this season in Olomouc, where he grew up. After the Olympics, he plans to return to and finish the season.
The regular season ends March 9, and HC Olomouc is in line to go through a best-of-five play-in series. If the club is done before the March 21 deadline to be eligible for the NHL playoffs, Krejci could sign with the Bruins, who according to PuckPedia will have roughly $4.86 million in salary cap space by then.
“I’m here now. I’m going to focus on this tournament,” Krejci said. “I don’t know myself yet what’s going to happen, so I’m just going to play it out.”
Since he played in Europe this season, Krejci would have to clear waivers before being added to any NHL roster.
He would certainly provide a nice boost for Boston, which is expected to be one of the two wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference. Longtime goaltender Tuukka Rask has struggled since rejoining the Bruins, but he was coming off hip surgery and hadn't been playing.
Krejci played in 42 Czech league games before the Olympics. At least four games are on tap for Krejci's Czech Republic, which opened the tournament Wednesday against Olympic newcomer Denmark.
He got off to a rocky start in Beijing, testing positive for the coronavirus. Even that unexpected twist Krejci handled well.
“I was stuck in my room for two days, but at least I got some rest, watched some movies, did a little stretching, worked out,” he said. “It wasn’t too bad. I’m just trying to take the positives out of it. Hopefully the worst is behind me, and I can just focus on practice and games.”
As for his decision to play overseas instead of the NHL this season, he has no regrets.
“It’s been great,” Krejci said. “It’s been definitely a great experience for me, my Czech family, my American family. It’s been really good. But now I’m here, so I’m excited to be here."
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports