Poor Marcus Kruger can’t catch a break.
The fourth-line center was the last major Chicago Blackhawks player to re-sign with the club this offseason, opting to take a very team-friendly one-year, $1.5 million deal in hopes of getting a longer-term deal down the line.
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As happy as we were and are that Kruger got back in the Blackhawks fold before camp, it turns out it didn’t happen soon enough for him to actually show up at camp. Kruger’s agent, J.P. Barry, told ESPN’s Scott Powers that Kruger has not yet secured a visa to travel to the United States. Thus, he will miss training camp, with Barry adding that Kruger should arrive in the United States sometime “early next week.”
Kruger is a native of Sweden, and Barry said his client could not apply for a visa until a new contract between Kruger and the Blackhawks was officially signed. That occurred last Friday, leaving him little time to secure a visa for travel to the United States. Anyone who has ever applied for a visa for out-of-country travel knows it is not the speediest process, and that also applies to professional sports stars.
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The 25-year-old is coming off another strong season as a defensive center. His work, along with that of teammates Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw, kept top lines of teams like the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning in check as the Blackhawks skated to their third Stanley Cup in the last six seasons. It made it tough to know what Kruger might ask for or make from a new contract, as he is not a forward to be judged solely by his offensive statistics.
The two sides managed to work out a short-term deal, with Kruger and his agent hoping the Swede’s loyalty to the club will be rewarded next year. Speaking on behalf of nearly all, if not all, Blackhawks fans, we hope it is rewarded as well.
Kruger is a two-time Cup champion in Chicago, and aside from his amazing shutdown abilities against the like of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Steven Stamkos, he’s best remembered in the 2014-15 playoffs for his game-winning goal in the triple-overtime second Western Conference finals game against Anaheim.
Kruger will look to build off a fine regular season as well, in which he tallied seven goals and 10 assists while winning 53.3 percent of his faceoffs. His shooting percentage also fell heavily last regular season to 5.6, down from 10.1 in 2011-12, 8.0 in 2013 and 8.3 in 2013-14. That means Kruger is probably due for a bit of a scoring uptick this season, even though his main role is still defensive forward.
With Kruger missing from camp, Shaw will probably get some work at fourth-line center, while the plethora of fringe NHL players the Blackhawks are currently hosting will try to make an impact in the grinder role while Kruger is absent. It might not earn any of them a spot in the starting lineup come Opening Night, but it could earn them a roster spot.
Ultimately, Kruger’s visa issue is a non-issue, although it’s unfortunate he will miss training camp. Still, it shouldn’t have an adverse effect on Kruger or the Chicago Blackhawks.
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