Blackhawks

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Incentive. For many young prospects trying to latch onto an NHL roster, there's already plenty of it there. It's a chance at playing on a bigger stage, a bigger opportunity for a career and, if you're on a two-way contract, a bigger paycheck.

Tanner Kero already had that incentive but in November, received an even more special one: he and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy. Now when Kero plays, it's not just what it means for him. It's what it means for his family.

"It's been a fun experience. It's something a little extra special that you play for," Kero said. "You get your mind away from the game when you go home. You just relax and enjoy that part of life. It's just something extra to play for and it's been special."

Kero has been making the most of his second shot with the Blackhawks, recording two goals and two assists on the Blackhawks' dads trip. That included a three-point night against the Colorado Avalanche and a building chemistry with line mates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa. 

Coach Joel Quenneville likes what he's seen thus far.

"He did a great job for us," Quenneville said. "Defensively, we like his availability in his own end. We like his positioning offensively. He had a nice couple of games to finish the dads trip but he's been good for us. I like the consistency."

Rockford coach Ted Dent said Kero started playing better in November, not long after Kero became a dad. Whether or not that had anything to do with it Dent didn't know, but the results were there nonetheless.

"I think he'd be the first to say his season started off slow with us and he finally caught his stride, maybe 15-20 games into our season," Dent said. "He was skating better, skating stronger, he had more confidence with the puck and things just came together."

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Kero's line is a good blend of familiarity, defense and skill. Kero and Hinostroza are good friends who played together plenty in Rockford. Hossa is... well, Hossa, and pretty much benefits any line mate.

"It's been good," Kero said. "We've been trying to continue, get some secondary scoring. But we also want to be relied on defensively, be counted on to play in big situations, a defensive draw, at the end of a period or end of a game. We're trying to focus on being good defensively, being simple and hard to play against. We're getting fortunate enough to contribute offensively as well."

Hossa, whose game-winning goal in Boston came off a Kero feed, said the 24-year-old is adapting well.

"Since they called him up he took it to his advantage. Right now he's playing the 200-foot game, [he's] real smart in our zone, doesn't panic, makes the right play at the right time, and he's showing more offensive abilities," Hossa said. "It seems like things are going well for him and we're glad we can help as a third line right now in scoring some important goals. With young players, that's definitely big."

Kero's made an impact and an impression with the Blackhawks. Quenneville said on Sunday that, even when Marcus Kruger returns from his injury, Kero will likely remain where he is – "I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

"That comment tells you the trust level he's gained in Kero," Dent said. "I knew over time that Kero was a player that Q was going to love. I've gotten to know Q over the years and in talking to him I know what he likes in players and it was just a matter of time because Kero's a responsible two-way player. He doesn't cheat the game and he's very aware of his defensive responsibilities and that's what Q loves, first and foremost. A lot of us coaches love that."

Kero is making strides in his second stint with the Blackhawks. He already had plenty of incentive to make an impact on this roster. Now a new father, he has that much more of one.
 

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

The Blackhawks will eventually have a decision to make on No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach, whose clock is officially ticking after he made his NHL debut over the weekend and scored his first goal in his second game two nights later.

The Blackhawks, as we know, can give Dach up to nine NHL games before having to decide whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract. Whether he makes it past nine games or not, if the Blackhawks don't feel like he's pro ready for the full season, the only other option for the team is to send Dach back to the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to CHL rules.

That being said, it appears the Blackhawks are at least preparing for the possibility that Dach could be kept on the NHL roster beyond the nine-game tryout this season.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Wednesday on NBCSN that: "You don't have to make a decision on this right now, so Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks won't, but if you twisted their arm and said you do have to make a decision, I think they're definitely leaning towards this guy being an NHL player this season."

The roster move the Blackhawks made earlier in the day indicates the organization is making sure it can afford Dach's services in case he does stay the whole season.

Connor Murphy was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) Wednesday with a groin injury, which means he'll be sidelined for a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. By putting him on LTIR instead of regular injured reserve, the Blackhawks get some cap relief and that’s noteworthy when you factor in Dach's potential performance bonuses that could reach up to $2.5 million.

When Dach was activated and recalled, the Blackhawks exceeded the 7.5 percent cushion in total amount of potential performance bonuses by $595,000, according to Cap Friendly. That number was then applied to the cap, which put the Blackhawks near the upper limit. So every dollar counts, considering the bonus money rolls over to next season's salary cap if there isn’t enough financial space at the end of the season to absorb the hits.

The other noteworthy item from McKenzie's report: The Blackhawks aren't too worried about burning the first year of Dach's entry-level contract. They're more-so looking ahead to the 40-game mark, which would put him one year closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent — a player must be 27 or older as of June 30 or accrue seven seasons to become a UFA, and hitting 40 games counts as a full season if they're on the NHL roster, injured or not.

The Blackhawks have said all along that there's no set plan on Dach's future and his performance will dictate what's going to happen. But the team is prepared for every scenario, and that includes keeping him past the nine-game tryout and 40-game benchmark.

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Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

The Blackhawks have announced that defenseman Connor Murphy will be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) due to a groin injury.

Earlier reports stated the 26-year-old Murphy would miss “a couple of weeks” after leaving the second period of the Blackhawks game against the Golden Knights last night. Murphy had previously sat out of the Blackhawks season opener in Prague for the same injury.

LTIR is designed for teams navigating the cap hit when a player is out with a long-term injury. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), this means the player will be out for at least 24 calendar days and 10 regular season games. While LTIR doesn’t create cap space, it does allow a team to replace the player on LTIR with any number of other players to fill the roster hole.

In the case of Murphy, the Blackhawks recoup his $3.85M cap hit for the duration he’s LTIR. The Blackhawks can go over the cap hit for the time being, but once they activate him his entire cap hit goes back on the books. Essentially, the Blackhawks can go over the cap for the time being up to what Murphy was making, plus whatever cap space they had beforehand.

As for who will take Murphy’s place in the lineup, the Blackhawks have a few options. So far, it has been announced they have recalled defenseman Dennis Gilbert from the Rockford IceHogs.

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