Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.

Trevor van Riemsdyk on the move hours after being selected by Vegas in expansion draft

Trevor van Riemsdyk on the move hours after being selected by Vegas in expansion draft

Less than 14 hours after being taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, Trevor van Riemsdyk is already on the move.

The Golden Knights have traded the 25-year-old defenseman to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he will reunite with former Blackhawks teammates Scott Darling, Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen. Carolina also receives a 2018 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2017 second-rounder.

“I think that’ll be making the transition easier," van Riemsdyk said during a conference call on Thursday. "I know Scotty, Teuvo and Nordy. I know Brett [Pesce] very well and Noah [Hanifin] I met in Germany. It’ll make the transition a little easier. I’m sure the rest of the guys are great guys. So I’m excited to come and experience it.”

Vegas general manager George McPhee made it known that he was going to draft "a lot" of defensemen Wednesday night, and he did just that with van Riemsdyk being one of 13 blue liners selected. Because of that, it makes players like van Riemsdyk expendable, giving McPhee the opportunity to collect assets by trading some of them and using the returns on other parts of the roster.

Van Riemsdyk joins an up-and-coming Hurricanes team that has a young, promising defensive corps featuring 25-year-old future All-Star Justin Faulk, the 20-year-old Hanifin, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2015, and 23-year-old Jaccob Slavin, who has emerged into of their best defensemen.

“Being in Chicago I was lucky enough to play with guys like [Duncan Keith], [Brent] Seabrook and [Niklas] Hjalmarsson, to learn from them and practice with them," van Riemsdyk said. "Carolina’s a younger group but really talented, a group of guys that’s played really well. They’re definitely guys you can learn a lot from, too. I know guys a little bit, so it’ll be exciting to get on the ice with them a little more and learn from them. It’s definitely a change, but it’ll be a fun group to be a part of.”

Van Riemsdyk has one year left on a deal that carries a $825,000 cap hit, and is set to become a restricted free agent next summer.

After NHL expansion draft, what's next for Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger?

After NHL expansion draft, what's next for Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger?

LAS VEGAS — As soon as the Blackhawks’ season ended, the questions began for Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger. They were two of the most likely candidates to be exposed to the expansion draft and the two most likely to be part of the Blackhawks’ attempts to get back under the salary cap.

One is now a Vegas Golden Knight (for now). The other remained with the Blackhawks on Wednesday night but could nevertheless be on the move soon.

Van Riemsdyk was one of 30 players selected by the Golden Knights at the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday in Las Vegas, but will he stay there? A source said that van Riemsdyk, one of 13 defensemen the Golden Knights picked, could be traded again soon and that Carolina and Dallas were possible destinations. The 25-year-old van Riemsdyk played in 58 games with the Blackhawks last season, recording five goals and 11 assists. Van Riemsdyk has one season remaining on his current contract with a $825,000 cap hit.

As for Kruger, who has two seasons remaining on his current deal ($3.083 million cap hit per season), he was still with the Blackhawks as of Wednesday night. Will he remain there this season after all? Marian Hossa will not play in the 2017-18 season, and the Blackhawks may be able to place him on long-term injured reserve, which wouldn’t make their salary cap situation nearly as dire as it originally was going to be. But a source said Kruger could still be traded to the Golden Knights for one of their defensemen. If that happens, the Blackhawks would miss Kruger’s defensive work and his penalty killing.

When asked about this uncertain summer back in April, Kruger said he wasn’t paying much attention to the rumors. But he knew what the possibilities were.

“If that happens, that’s the situation,” he said then. “We all know what’s going on and stuff like that can happen. You have to get ready for that.”