Marcus Kruger had to wait a little longer to get back to Chicago. He couldn’t obtain a visa until he signed his latest contract, a one-year deal he inked earlier this month.
So being patient was important, right?
“Yeah, I think I already got some practice there,” Kruger said with a smile on Saturday night. “So it was OK to wait that extra week.”
Indeed, Kruger had to be a very patient man this offseason, as he waited for the Blackhawks to figure out their salary-cap issues to make room for his new contract. He finally got that deal on Sept. 11. It wasn’t the long-term deal that he and his agent, JP Barry, had hoped for when the summer began. But Kruger, who has now won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, said he’ll take the short-term one.
“I knew the deal from the beginning. I know the situation here and everything, [that] it might be hard,” he said. “I’m happy to sign here again and be a part of this team and this organization again.”
General manager Stan Bowman said he could talk to Kruger and his agent about a longer deal at some point this season.
“I think we both wanted to do a longer-term deal, just weren’t able to fit it in. Luckily he understood that and he wanted to be here. That says a lot for what Marcus is like as a person,” Bowman said during Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. “During the year, you’re allowed to sign extensions when you get into January. We’ll hopefully have talks then and we’ll see where the cap is at, and what would work. But our goal is to keep him here.”
Kruger said he kept working out and skating in Sweden during the visa process – “I was fortunate to skate with my former team there, the junior team, so I’m thankful for that.”
Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t expect Kruger to be rusty.
“He’s a hard working type guy; he was skating in Sweden before he got back, waiting to get over here. He looked real good,” Quenneville said. “He’s really excited about being back on the ice [Friday] with his teammates. I’m sure he’ll be excited about playing these last two games.”
Teammates were anticipating his return.
“We’ll give him a hard time for taking so long to get back,” Andrew Shaw said. “But it’ll be good to see him and have him on the ice with us.”
Kruger’s become a vital part of this group. He, Shaw and Andrew Desjardins proved a great fourth-line combination in the postseason and Kruger continued to hone his all-around game, from 5-on-5 to penalty killing to face-offs. If he could expand on that role this season, perhaps even move up a line or two, that’s fine with him.
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“You always want to get better. That’s my goal every year to get better than the past, and I want to play more and do more for this team and do everything I can,” he said. “That’s my mindset coming into this year, to get better and hopefully I can earn that ice time and earn those chances, too.”
Kruger has practiced the past few days and is expected to play in the Blackhawks’ final two preseason games (Thursday at St. Louis and Oct. 3 vs. the Dallas Stars). Since he’s on a one-year deal, he’ll probably be waiting until next summer to see if he gets another deal, perhaps a long-term one this time. Again, he’s willing to be patient. He’s had plenty of practice at it.
“I’ve got a one-year deal and I’ll try to do my best to maybe in the future get another deal,” he said. “So that’s what I’m aiming for this year and have a good year and I think everything else will sort out.”
— The Blackhawks assigned forwards Ryan Haggerty, Mark McNeill, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp and defenseman Ville Pokka to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday afternoon. They also released forwards Chris DeSousa and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, defenseman Kirill Gotovets and goaltenders Mac Carruth and Mark Visentin from training camp. The Blackhawks’ active roster is now at 38.
— The Blackhawks beat the Blues 3-1 on Saturday. Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal.