There was always the feeling that when Marcus Kruger signed his one-year deal late in the summer that there was at least progress to a long-term deal. Considering the way both Quenneville and Bowman bat their eyes at Kruger, it was pretty clear he was never going anywhere. That was only confirmed when his first possible, viable, younger, cheaper replacement in Phillip Danault was punted to Montreal in return for two players that aren’t going to be here past June (at least not likely to be). If Kruger’s spot was assured, there was no room for Danault. And today we have confirmation that his spot was assured.
Kruger signed a three-year extension, kicking in after this season. It carries a cap hit of $3.08 per year.
And yes, that’s too much. But it’s not as much as Philly’s Sean Couturier was able to net before this season, and as Matt pointed out in August that is easily what Kruger could have asked for.
Krugs is something of a unicorn. He is a 4th line center that’s really a third line center anywhere else, who gets his skull beaten in in terms of zone starts and competition and yet consistently turns the ice over and keeps the puck out of his zone. No, he’s just not going to score quite as much as we sometimes think he could, because he does flash some hands around the net from time to time. But the 25 or so points per year is basically what you’re going to get from him. His value lies elsewhere.
But… $3 million. That’s heavy. But it’s another indication of how focused the Hawks are on this year and next, and maybe the one after and that’s it. I really have no doubts that Danault could have provided what Kruger does down the road. It would take a year or two for him to get there though. Kruger already provides what Kruger provides, so the Hawks are going to pay for it.
Still, for this team he’s the 4th center, who doesn’t provide a lot of scoring, and you can always find a checking/PK-ing center. Vern Fiddler makes $1.2 against the cap. Kruger’s cap hit is higher than Frans Nielsen’s this year, and Nielsen is a player the Hawks have lusted after before and is a free agent this summer. Dominic Moore will be available as well. You can’t escape the feeling that this is a role that could have been done for cheaper.
It locks in the Hawks down the middle for the next little while, or it will when Teuvo gets his extension either in the summer or during the season next year. Toews-Anisimov-Teuvo-Kruger at center for multiple years is something most teams are going to struggle to match. Of course, the only wingers the Hawks have locked in for even next year are Kane and Panarin, and Panarin is going to get his too. That’s $65 million committed to next year’s cap already, while needing to fill four winger spots and perhaps one or two on the blue line as well and only Ryan Hartman looking like he might actually make the jump from Rockford. So is there room to sign Andrew Shaw? The Hawks are probably going to find out.