Blackhawks sign Marcus Kruger to new deal; is Joel Quenneville next?
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com July 12, 2013 8:25PM
Marcus Kruger had four goals and nine assists in his second season with the Blackhawks. | Elise Amendola~AP
Updated: August 14, 2013 6:19AM
Nick Leddy was the first member of the Blackhawks to have his day with the Stanley Cup, so the trophy was in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Friday. From there, it’ll bounce around Canada and the United States, make a stop at the Hawks’ fan convention in late July and head off to Europe in early August.
But while the summer is just beginning for the Hawks’ players, the season never ends for the Hawks’ front office.
The team re-signed restricted free agent Marcus Kruger to a two-year contract, putting the last piece of the 2013-14 puzzle in place.
“We might look to add some depth in Rockford, but for the Blackhawks, I think we’ve said all along we need to have some opportunities for our young players to step forward, and that kind of brings us to what we have here,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said on the last day of prospects camp.
Kruger, 23, had four goals and nine assists in his second season with the Hawks, forming one of the league’s top penalty-killing duos with Michael Frolik, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on June 30. Kruger spent most of the season on the fourth line at center and left wing. He also spent some time at second-line center.
“We’ve always liked Kruger,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He complements the way you like your group to play. He adds speed, he adds purpose. He really enhanced our penalty killing to a different level this year.”
There are other tasks ahead — signing depth player such as center Drew LeBlanc, replacing departed goaltender coach Stephane Waite and, of course, hammering out a contract extension for Quenneville, who will be entering the last year of his deal.
Bowman and Quenneville said they’d like to get a new deal done before training camp opens in September.
Bowman and Quenneville addressed a wide range of topics Friday:
◆ Michal Handzus spent the postseason as the Hawks’ second-line center, but even with Bolland traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Quenneville said Handzus won’t be in that spot when the season begins. Brandon Pirri, the leading scorer in the American Hockey League last season, likely will get the first crack, though Kruger is another option.
Quenneville said Handzus will start in the same role he had when he was acquired at the trade deadline — a fourth-line center, perhaps even a platoon player — and “will have to work his way up.”
◆ Marian Hossa did not need back surgery to fix the disc problem that caused his foot to go numb during the Stanley Cup Final. Several Hawks needed surgery — Handzus was spotted at prospects camp with a cast on his right arm and a wrap on his left knee, and Bryan Bickell had thumb surgery — but Bowman said he expected to have a full and healthy roster for training camp.
◆ As for the prospects in camp this week, Bowman singled out centers Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, both 2011 first-round picks, as players who could have a chance to follow in Brandon Saad’s footsteps and make the roster out of training camp. He also said LeBlanc, the 24-year-old Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s top player, could be in the NHL mix next season, too.
◆ Bowman said the team is “really pleased” with the progress of 2012 first-round pick Teuvo Teravainen, who was not in camp. The 18-year-old could be the top center on his team in Finland this season after posting 13 goals and 18 assists in 44 games.
“We’re really looking forward to having him in a Blackhawks uniform at some point because he’s a special player, and I think he’s going to electrify fans for a long time,” Bowman said.