The Blackhawks have traded Marian Hossa’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that includes Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in 2019. The deal helped the Blackhawks clear Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit for the next three years and benefits the Coyotes because Hossa's actual salary is only $1 million each year over that span.
In return the Blackhawks will receive forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Meletta and defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019 fifth-round pick.
"Yeah, obviously really excited," Kruger said of returning to Chicago. "Couldn’t be any more happy. Ready to go and just overall really excited to be back."
It’s not surprising the Blackhawks found a partner to take Hossa’s contract off their hands, given the salary cap floor increased by $3.4 million. But they paid a price they were likely hoping to avoid in attaching Hinostroza, who recently signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks that carries a cap hit of $1.5 million.
Hinostroza established career highs in all three scoring categories last season with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games. He also had the second-highest points-per-60 minutes average at 5-on-5 for the Blackhawks at 1.98, a rate only Patrick Kane topped at 2.16.
In the grand scheme of things, removing Hossa’s contract from the books gives the Blackhawks flexibility in terms of roster movement going forward, and perhaps allows them to be more open-mind about a potential trade that benefits both the short-term and long-term after a quiet free agency.
The Blackhawks released this statement on Thursday thanking Hossa, who announced in May that he will no longer play hockey due to a skin disorder, for his services and the role he played in helping bring three Stanley Cups to Chicago:
Today is another example of the leadership Marian has displayed as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. When we approached him to discuss the idea of him waiving his no move clause to allow us to make this move, it became clear this was a difficult thing for him to consider. After the success he has had in a Blackhawks jersey, the friends he has made throughout the organization and the fact his heart will always be in Chicago, the thought of disassociating in any way from the team he has come to love was not something he really wanted to give any thought to at all. But, as the consummate team player, he did what he has always done. He did what the team needed him to do in order to succeed.
Marian’s long-term contributions to the club will never be forgotten. His performance as a player was always appreciated, but, it is his special qualities as a teammate, a leader and a person, that will more than anything leave its mark on all of us who have come to love and respect the very humble way he goes about everything he does. He has shown us all the impact we can have on others if we conduct ourselves with character, integrity and utmost respect for all we come in contact with. We have had the pleasure of watching him hoist three Stanley Cups with our team and he will forever be connected to the Blackhawks. On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to thank Marian—a world-class player—for all he has done for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The notable part of the Blackhawks' return is Kruger, who comes back to Chicago after spending last season with Carolina and Arizona. Coyotes general manager John Chayka revealed in a conference call that Kruger played through the season with a sports hernia and underwent surgery in April, which maybe helps explain why he compiled only six points (one goal, five assists) in 48 games while logging a career-low 10:50 of ice time.
"I feel ready to go, so it’s not going to be any problem for training camp or next year," Kruger said. "What went wrong, I don’t know. I wasn’t playing enough, as a team, or me either. I’m really excited to show what I can do and how I can play and get better from it. It was a tough year last year, but going through that I learned a lot and just want to make sure I really prepare here and get better from it and be ready for next year."
As a team, the Blackhawks ranked 21st in faceoff win percentage (49.3) and 20th in penalty kill percentage (79.1), two areas Kruger played a large role in during his first stint in Chicago and will likely ask him to do the same in his second go-around.
"Similar," Kruger responded when asked what he expects his role to be. "Do whatever I get asked to do and play my game. And try to do whatever the coaches want me to do, do that 100 percent and give it my best. That’s all I can do. Obviously they know what kind of player I am. I think playing to my strengths and being a guy they can trust at both ends of the ice. I think it’s going to be exciting and yeah, we both know each other. It’s not going to be a problem."