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Chicago Blackhawks: Kruger-Versteeg-Nordstrom Thoughts

By Colin Likas
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It’s been an interesting day in the world of the Chicago Blackhawks, as we’ve finally got something of substance to talk about outside the off-ice issues of Patrick Kane.

Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom were moved to the Carolina Hurricanes this afternoon in what essentially amounted to a salary dump. A short time later, Stan Bowman and Marcus Kruger agreed to a 1-year deal for the fourth-line center, the financial details of which have not yet been revealed.

Versteeg’s cap hit was about $2.2 million, while Nordstrom’s was a shade over $600,000. According to spotrac.com, which did not have Nordstrom on the Blackhawks’ active roster, the move pushed the Blackhawks to about $3.2 million below the cap, but that does not include the contract of Artemi Panarin, whose cap hit is $812,500 and who is widely believed to be an Opening Night starter for Chicago. So you’re looking at $2.5 million max, and probably a little less than that, for signing Kruger.

If Kruger is inked at about $2.2-$2.4 million, the Blackhawks’ cap space is pretty much nil. It would be nice to sign a veteran defenseman to back up Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad, but that would be essentially impossible unless someone else is moved or unless something suspension-related happens regarding Kane.

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The re-signing of Kruger boosts the Blackhawks at center, at defense among their forwards and on the penalty kill, all valuable aspects of the game. The losses of Versteeg and Nordstrom, while not negligible, are not on the scale of Brandon Saad or Patrick Sharp‘s departures. Versteeg, though he may have been in Joel Quenneville‘s doghouse to end the 2014-15 season, was one of the few true left wings the Blackhawks still had on their roster. As of now, we’re looking at Panarin, Bryan Bickell, Viktor Tikhonov and Andrew Desjardins as the primary left wings. That’s … interesting.

Another takeaway from the trade with Carolina is what the Blackhawks got back. While the teams swapped draft picks, Chicago also acquired a pair of defensemen in Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie. Both are under the age of 25, and the Blackhawks have siphoned off multiple young defensemen in recent trades, most recently Stephen Johns in the Sharp deal with Dallas. Building up the defensive prospect cabinet should be a goal of Bowman’s, and it appears he’s committing to that idea.

The most important part of the day’s actions, however, is Kruger re-signing. In an offseason filled with moves and new faces coming to Chicago, managing to hang on to a familiar guy who just hunkers down and does his job night in and night out is valuable to the organization. It would be nice to get Kruger signed to a longer-term deal, but money matters aren’t quite so simple for Bowman at this point.

Chicago’s Opening Night roster is getting a little more clear, though there may still be a little work to be done, whether it’s in the form of an additional move by Bowman or decisions by Q in training camp. We’re finally getting back to hockey, folks.

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