Blackhawks

Hello, again: Thanks to former Blackhawks, Marcus Kruger expects easy transition in Carolina

Hello, again: Thanks to former Blackhawks, Marcus Kruger expects easy transition in Carolina

When Marcus Kruger debuted for the Blackhawks at the end of the 2010-11 season, he joined a team that was coming off a Stanley Cup victory/post-Cup purge and was trying to recapture a winning formula. During that time, he gained a wealth of experience and was a valuable part of the Blackhawks’ 2013 and 2015 Cups.

Now he’s the latest former Blackhawks player headed to the Carolina Hurricanes, who hope to turn his and others’ winning pedigrees into success there.

The 27-year-old Kruger joked that, “I’m probably one of the older guys now,” with Carolina. The Hurricanes do have their share of youth but thanks to their offseason moves they also have a strong crop of experience – and Blackhawks. Kruger joins Trevor van Riemsdyk, Scott Darling, Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom, the latter four all part of the 2015 Cup team. They also added Justin Williams, who’s won three Cups (his first came with the Hurricanes in 2006).

“We’re a very young team trying to find its way, and we think the guys we picked up aren’t only just very good players, but also good guys and winners,” Carolina general manager Ron Francis said “That’s invaluable in a locker room.”

Francis and Kruger have talked about the upcoming season but admits Kruger’s role on this team is, “wide open.” Kruger was never a big goal scorer with the Blackhawks but he was a key part of the penalty kill and improved on faceoffs. He was also someone coach Joel Quenneville could count on at critical times. He lined up with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik during the 2013 run and was part of the play that led to Bolland’s Cup-winning goal in Game 6. He was also on a dependable line with Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins during the 2015 run.

“He’s had a lot of tough assignments and handled those extremely well. It shows his maturity, ability to play in different ways and styles,” Francis said. “It’s the leadership, the on-ice ability to show guys what it takes to be a part of the team and that team is first and foremost important. When you buy into that, there’s more chance of winning. We liked [Kruger] as a player and person and what he brings as a leader as well.”

In reshaping their roster, the Hurricanes wanted more experience and proven winners. Kruger is the latest to bring that.

“You always want to do as much as you can to help the team out. You certainly want to take a step and get better and better,” Kruger said. “I’ll go there, do my best and take the opportunity that’s given. We’ll see how it pays out but I’ll do my best.”

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

artemi_panarin_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Filip Zadina

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 195 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Marian Hossa

Fit for Blackhawks:

You know who the Blackhawks missed last year? Hossa. It's not mentioned enough when analyzing what went wrong in 2017-18. 

Well, Zadina is a player who's got the upside of Hossa and is one of a few prospects who could potentially crack the NHL lineup this upcoming season. The scouting report above is all you need to know about Zadina's style of play, and Blackhawks fans surely nodded through the whole thing because it's exactly what the team is looking for.

However, this is a case where the Blackhawks would have to trade up to snag him if they want him, because there's little chance he'll be on the board when the eighth pick rolls around. And it's probably unlikely they would do so, given what it may take to move up a few spots.