The deal to keep Marcus Kruger here at least two more years was deemed “very close” by Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman late this morning. By late afternoon, that status turned into a done deal.
The Blackhawks and Kruger agreed to terms on a two-year deal on Friday afternoon. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Kruger had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 47 games last season; that included two game-winning goals. He also had three goals and two assists in 23 postseason games, and it was his pass to Johnny Oduya that set the game- and Cup-winning goal in motion in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.
For the Blackhawks, they wrap up their dealings with the Swedish center, who mostly anchored the fourth line this season but showed he could also play the second-line center spot when Dave Bolland was hurt. Bowman said he was happy with Kruger’s evolution this season.
[RELATED: Bowman hoping for extension with Quenneville]
“He had a great season,” he said. “When we brought him over (from Sweden) we expected this role from him. Looking at his progression the last two seasons, it’s not surprising he’s done that. This is what we liked when we drafted him. He’s a tenacious player and very smart. He gained some strength over the last few years, which has allowed him to play against better and stronger players.”
Kruger really broke through this season on the penalty kill. While it wasn’t something he had played much in the past, Kruger took to the short-handed game like he’d been doing it his whole career. With the help of him and recently traded Michael Frolik, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill went from 27th in the league in 2011-12 to third in the 2012-13 season.
“We’ve always liked Krugs,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He compliments how you want your group to play. He enhanced our penalty killing to a different level; he was instrumental to taking leadership to that group. He’s zero maintenance. He flies under the radar, and that’s exactly how you want a guy to play.”
Kruger has shown he can go in whatever spot he’s needed, from wing to center. As for that second-line center spot that will likely be open this season, there’s a candidate or two who could fill that role. Kruger is one of those possibilities, but Bowman said that’s ultimately up to where Quenneville sees players fitting.
[RELATED: Blackhawks' health improving]
“The good thing with Marcus is he can play left wing, or center on the second line, third line or fourth line. It’s nice to have guys who can bounce around the lineup,” Bowman said. “In any season, you’re going to have injuries or you want to have a different look sometimes. He gives you the flexibility to do that.”
The Blackhawks’ offseason moves are likely done. Kruger’s cap hit will probably bring the Blackhawks close to the $64.3 million cap established for the 2013-14 season. Rockford players will have the chance to fill any other voids.
As for Kruger, the Blackhawks like his potential moving forward.
“(He has the) ability to help us in a lot of ways: he played some wing in the playoffs, a lot of center during the regular season and he’s a big part of the penalty killing,” Bowman said. “That’s sort of his profile moving forward: versatile defender who’s worked on his offensive game a little bit. Looking to next season, his role is only going to get bigger.”