When the Chicago Blackhawks signed Brad Richards on the first day of the 2014 Free Agency Period, everybody knew that somebody was going to be out. The move put the Hawks $2 million over the Salary Cap. One or more players are going to be traded this offseason in order to get below the cap. One of the names reportedly on the block is Kris Versteeg.
Versteeg was acquired in the middle of last season in a deal that sent Jimmy Hayes to the Florida Panthers. He had previously played for the Blackhawks from 2007-2010 before being traded after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Versteeg was a big part in the Blackhawks success during those playoffs, posting 6 goals and 14 points. From 2008, his first full NHL season, until 2012, Versteeg posted at least 20 goals and 40 points every season, including two seasons over 50 points.
In 2012-13, Versteeg only managed to play 10 games before getting injured. The injury called for season-ending surgery on his knee. Although the injury occurred in March, he was back skating in August, and was unexpectedly ready to start the 2013-14 season.
Although Versteeg played nearly a full season, it was, by far, his least productive. Before being traded, he had only managed to find the back of the net twice for the Panthers, and it wasn’t much better for the club that drafted him. Versteeg ended up with 12 goals on the season.
For the Blackhawks, his skating and defense seemed lethargic, which is expected coming off of an injury of that caliber. Most fans though, were calling for his being benched and worse. A change in roles did help his plus/minus numbers from his time in Florida. Playing on the Panthers top line meant going up against the best forwards on the other team, which caused him to have a -9 plus/minus number. On the Hawks though, he was mostly played on the third line, and ended up a +9.
Versteeg was a liability on defense at times with the Hawks due to his lethargic and careful skating. He was one of the reasons that the team could only roll three lines against the L.A. Kings in the Western Conference Finals, ultimately leading to the Hawks playoff elimination. His poor play during last season has thrust him into the middle of trade talks in the Hawks organization.
My belief though, is that Kris Versteeg will bounce back in 2014-15, and become the productive and talented player he once was for the Hawks. Coming off of a knee injury, it is difficult to get your skating legs back, and Versteeg was definitely without them last season. This upcoming season should prove to be a different story though, as he should once again become fully comfortable with his skating.
We won’t really know much on his progress until the Blackhawks Training Camp begins, and that will give us a much better picture of how Versteeg can improve on a very down year. I also believe that is the reason that the Hawks have not pulled the trigger on a deal to get under the cap. The team wants to gauge how Versteeg plays during Camp, and if he does well, then another player like Johnny Oduya, or Nick Leddy will “get the tomahawk”.
“Steeger” is only 28 years old, and is still in the prime of his career. A two year old injury should not slow him down for long, and I expect him to have a productive, successful season for the Hawks.
What do you guys think? Will Versteeg fully recover from his injury and get back to his days of scoring 20 goals a season, or has this injury ruined him beyond redemption? Let us know in the comments below!
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