Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks signed Marcus Kruger to a three-year contract extension worth $9.25 million, with an AAV of $3.08 million per year. The deal is quite the raise from his current one-year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million and looks to be a big investment in the Blackhawks special teams and defensive forward quality. The Kruger deal also means that, yet again, the Blackhawks will be making a bunch of roster moves in the summer.
Kruger a key piece to Blackhawks success
Since being drafted by Chicago in 2009, Kruger has been one of the most consistent role players in the franchise and has been valued by the team and loved by the hardcore fans. Not a player to light up the score sheet, Kruger makes his impact felt in the Blackhawks bottom-six forward lines as a defensive-minded center, with his big worth being on the Chicago penalty kill.
His wrist injury earlier this season was looked at as a major blow to the Blackhawks depth as it would be hard to replace someone like him in the lineup. That was until the Blackhawks called up Phillip Danault to fill the hole in the lineup left by Kruger. Danault played in the fourth-line center position and took over Kruger’s spot on the penalty kill, and did it well.
With Danault making a big impact at the NHL level and earning the trust of head coach Joel Quenneville, many thought in the offseason, with both Kruger and Danault set to be restricted-free agents, the Blackhawks would be forced to choose between the two. But, the Blackhawks made the choice early with a trade that sent Danault and a draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.
Now Kruger, once he returns from injury, will be looked at as the defensive piece in the forward core that must continue to be reliable at the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill.
Deal means major roster moves ahead
With Kruger’s cap hit increasing by more than double his current hit, the always cap-crunched Blackhawks will be again in need of General Manager Stan Bowman to work his offseason magic. With Weise and Fleischmann, along with Andrew Ladd more than likely being rental players, the Blackhawks will have roster spots open when the season ends.
Players with expiring contracts like Andrew Shaw, Dennis Rasmussen, Mark McNeill and Richard Panik that are relatively inexpensive and have valued experience with the Blackhawks this season will have to be considered for renewal.
Any potential extension for rookie Artemi Panarin will have to be held off for now, as the Blackhawks will more than likely be very, very young starting next year. Rasmussen and McNeill, as well as Ryan Hartman, Kyle Baun, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tanner Kero will more than likely see much more time at the NHL level in 2016-17.
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The Blackhawks need to trust in their system of developing young talent and also look to the skills of 2014 draft pick Nick Schmaltz as the potential future of the organization. A rebuild? No. But a re-tool? Yes.
What do you think of the Marcus Krguer extension? What does it mean for the Blackhawks moving forward? Let us know in the comments section below!