Marcus Kruger’s name has been tied to trade possibilities for several weeks now. While he wasn’t sent to the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft, it was expected he would be dealt to the NHL’s newest team eventually to help alleviate the Blackhawks’ cap issues.
On Sunday, he was.
The Blackhawks sent Kruger to Vegas for future considerations. It was another cap move for a team that signed several players, including Patrick Sharp, on Saturday. A team can spend 10 percent over the cap from now until the day the regular season begins. It’s expected the Blackhawks will put Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve once the season begins, which would also give them more wiggle room at that time.
As for now, the Blackhawks had to make more tough moves. Cash-wise, they rid themselves of Kruger’s $3.08 million cap hit for this and next season. Personnel-wise they lose another center center – Dennis Rasmussen, who was not given a qualifying offer last week, is gone, too. Kruger was also a reliable penalty killer. He had been steadily improving in faceoffs, peaking in the 2013-14 season when he won 56.7 percent of his draws. But after missing the second half of the 2015-16 season with a broken wrist, his faceoff numbers fell below 50 percent.
“We thank Marcus for his many contributions to our team—most notably, two Stanley Cup Championships,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “His work ethic, reliability and strength as a two-way player made him a valuable member of the organization. We wish him the best with Vegas.”
Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.
The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.
He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.
"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."
2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.
He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.
On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.
3. Mathew Barzal.
Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.
He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game.
The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.
Seth Gruen and US99’s Stylz & Roman join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Joel Quenneville says he expects and hopes Corey Crawford can return this season? Will he come back? And are they a playoff team even if Crawford returns?
Plus the Bulls extend Zach LaVine’s minutes, a preview of Sunday’s championship game and will Jake Arrieta eventually end up back with the Cubs?