At the Chicago Blackhawks’ exit day interview, general manager Stan Bowman said that signing Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger was a priority for the summer, as the two would be restricted free agents. Bowman made good on his pledge to sign Leddy, and on Friday, he signed Kruger to a two-year deal of his own. Fans who were holding their breath took a collective sigh of relief with the announcement.
Kruger has grown over the season, taking his place on the bottom two lines that did so well. He tallied four goals and 13 points in 47 games, and his two game winning goals are a career-high mark. In this year’s playoffs, he had three goals and five points, also a career high record. On the Blackhawks’ deadly penalty kill, Kruger was one of the rocks of that unit alongside Michael Frolik.
Kruger’s signing signals an end to the Blackhawks’ dealings for the summer. Once training camp begins, it’ll be up to the players from their AHL affiliate in Rockford to show the coaching staff that they have what it takes to fill the holes left by Frolik and Dave Bolland. It will be especially interesting to see how that successful penalty kill unit will be restructured without Frolik at Kruger’s side.
With their business done for now, the Blackhawks’ offseason can now begin in earnest. The players will begin their training and bask in their individual Cup days. Once schedules are released, the countdown to their home opener will begin. Unlike the salary cap purge 2010, Kruger will be a player who returns to defend his team’s championship.