Before I begin this article, I'd like to make one thing clear: I like Dave Bolland. He's a top-flight checking center, able to occasionally make a great play and Kryptonite to the Sedin brothers up in Vancouver.
That all said, the one main thing I dislike about Bolland—and this is a big one—is his cap hit. Still on a contract from now-Panthers GM Dale Tallon, Bolland will take up $3.375 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
That cap hit is currently the seventh-highest for the 'Hawks for 2012-13, behind the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and others. Tallon seemed high on Bolland, seeing him as a future second-line center.
Sadly, that never panned out. When promoted to a second line, Bolland never seemed to be able to get the ball rolling. His chemistry with Marian Hossa on the ice was beyond atrocious, and he simply lacks the raw scoring and passing abilities needed from a No. 2 center.
This season, a similar player to Bolland in terms of skill set had a breakout: Marcus Kruger. While throwing him on the second line was likely a bit too much for him, the talent is clearly there in the 2009 fifth-round draftee.
Still filling out his frame, Kruger won 45.9 percent of his faceoffs. Compare this to a veteran in Bolland who won only 48.4 percent, and the difference is arguably negated. With more bulk and experience against top NHL centermen, Kruger's numbers at the dot will go up.
Kruger's production would also seemingly rise with a consistent role. This season, Kruger was bounced around anywhere from the second to fourth lines, also appearing at both center and wing. With this constant juggling, Kruger still managed to produce only 11 fewer points than Bolland in five fewer games skated.
Is Marcus Kruger ready to replace Dave Bolland?
Again, as he gets more experience and matures, Kruger's point total should go up. Having consistent linemates is a positive as well.
Kruger's style of play also bodes well for being the checking-line center. While not physically overbearing, he still holds no fear, willing to do battle along the boards, go to dirty areas and plant up in front of the net. With the exception of Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh, there's not much more one can ask out of a third-line center.
Bolland's health is also a factor. Over the last three regular seasons, Bolland has only appeared in 74 percent of the Blackhawks' games. Bolland's balky back is well known, and while it was good this year, it's seemingly only a matter of time until he has a season like 2009-10, in which he nearly appeared in as many postseason games (22) as regular-season games (39).
The final benefit to keeping Kruger over Bolland is the cap hit savings of $2.475 million for 2012-13. Kruger's cap hit is a measly $900k for next season before he will be a restricted free agent.
In all, Kruger seems ready to take over as the checking center. With the 'Hawks needing to fill holes and presumably needing to clear cap space in order to best do so, trading Bolland to clear a spot for Kruger makes far too much sense to pass up for Stan Bowman this offseason.