The Chicago Blackhawks have less than $500,000 in salary cap space, but that doesn’t mean Marcus Kruger will be going anywhere.
Kruger, 25, may have only scored 17 points with the Blackhawks this past season, and he may have only registered two goals and four points in 23 playoff games, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many who wouldn’t call Kruger one of the most important pieces of the Blackhawks. As such, there’s no surprise Chicago GM Stan Bowman wants the pivot under contract.
However, with August drawing nearer and Kruger on the verge of one month as a restricted free agent, the Blackhawks have yet to ink the Swedish center. Yet there doesn’t appear to be any panic from either Kruger or the Blackhawks. If anything, both sides seem to be feeling pretty good about where they are.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, the lack of cap space is making it difficult for the Blackhawks to finalize a deal with Kruger.
Kruger’s agent, J.P. Barry, told Kuc that they were simply waiting for Chicago to clear space because Kruger wants a long-term contract. However, Barry added to Kuc that the cap crunch could mean Kruger, "will have no choice later in August but to do a shorter deal."
Obviously, though, the hope from both the Blackhawks and Kruger is that something long-term can get worked out. When presented with the option this summer of filing for salary arbitration, Kruger declined it in hopes of getting something longer than a one-year deal.
Heading into the off-season, two of the most important moves for the Blackhawks were seen as locking up Kruger and burgeoning star winger Brandon Saad. Unfortunately for Chicago, Saad’s salary wishes were too rich and he was shipped to Columbus where he signed a six-year, $36 million deal. With Saad gone, however, all eyes shifted to Kruger, but the waiting game has yet to end.
Over the past four seasons, Kruger has manned Chicago’s third- and fourth-lines and been among the top penalty killers in the league. During the Blackhawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup run, Kruger and Michael Frolik formed an incredible penalty killing duo, and Kruger’s pass back to the blueline set up the Cup-winning goal by Dave Bolland. In 2015, Kruger’s post-season play alongside Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw helped Chicago take home another Cup.
From Barry’s comments, it’s clear that something will get done to have Kruger remain in Chicago – how long and for how much is yet to be determined. If the Blackhawks can’t clear space, it could be as short as a one-year pact, but should Chicago make room for Kruger, he could be in the Windy City for years to come.