Kruger’s agent J.P. Barry is hopeful the Blackhawks will reward his client for that in the future. Kruger, who was a restricted free agent, agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract on Friday. He’ll become a restricted free agent again after the 2015-16 season.
“The reality is you do the deal now,” Barry said by phone on Monday. “Everybody knows, Chicago knows, he wants to be there. He wants to continue the discussion of a long-term deal. There’s a lot of good faith. From our standpoint, the strategy now is for Chicago to work hard to open up cap room and do an extension later this year.”
Kruger sought a long-term extension after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this past season. The Blackhawks didn’t have the cap room to make that work at the time. Kruger had the option of taking the Blackhawks to arbitration and getting somewhere between $1.5-2 million or waiting to see if the Blackhawks could free up cap space to enable a more lucrative long-term deal.
Kruger opted for the latter and spent the summer waiting for the Blackhawks to trade salaries in order to afford his new contract. The Blackhawks never accomplished that. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman eventually traded Kris Versteeg and his $2.2 million cap hit on Friday, but that wasn’t enough and Kruger agreed to $1.5 million, which is only $175,000 more than his cap hit the past two seasons.
“It took a lot of discussion for both of us,” Barry said. “It’s a special situation. It’s not normal. They’re totally trying to keep this team together as much as possible. He wants to be on it. That’s why we were so patient. We were hoping room would open. At the end of the day, it didn’t open up enough.”
Barry and Kruger were also mindful of not forcing the Blackhawks into a situation where Kruger didn’t fit their financial plan. The Blackhawks had to make a number of those types of decisions this offseason. Bowman dealt Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Versteeg. Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette signed with other teams.
“Right now he can’t do a long-term deal with them,” Barry said. “If we did, he could become of the tradeable ones.”
Kruger led Blackhawks forwards in penalty-kill ice time last season and had seven goals and 10 assists in 81 regular-season games. He had two goals and two assists and averaged 15:06 in the playoffs. He has been a part of two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and has played in 287 regular-season games over the past five seasons.