The Chicago Blackhawks have one loose end remaining on their current roster this summer. A Marcus Kruger signing would turn the page on Chicago's in-house free agency and allow General Manager Stan Bowman to move on with the rest of his offseason.
So...when do the 'Hawks get Kruger's name on a contract?
ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers posted late Wednesday that the two parties were still negotiating. On July 5, Powers talked to Bowman concerning where the Blackhawks stood in several areas. Bowman commented on how talks were going with the 23-year-old defensive forward:
In terms of Kruger, we’re getting closer with Marcus. I think we’re not quite to the finish line yet, but we’ve had a lot of good discussions, and we’re getting close. I’m hopeful that will work itself out over the next few days here. We’re certainly going to get that done. It’s just that they take a little time sometimes.
There are several reasons why negotiations are a bit plodding. Kruger's agent, J.P. Barry, pointed out one reason in an e-mail to Powers Wednesday:
We are still working on this one. Marcus does not have salary arbitration rights, so we have more time to continue to work on seeing if we can agree on something.
The lack of an arbitration-imposed deadline coupled with a low probability of an offer sheet gives both sides time to dig in a bit. I doubt either party is digging too deep, though.
Kruger is a player who Bowman has been high on for several years. That was best illustrated when Bowman added Kruger to the roster late in the 2010-11 campaign. The fact that Bowman dealt Dave Bolland a few weeks ago shows, at least in part, his belief that Kruger can play a bigger role for the 'Hawks.
For Kruger, his salary slot is in a pretty confined area. Based on last year's salary (via CapGeek.com), the 'Hawks should have been able to make a qualifying offer of around $850,000.
As a bottom-six center in the NHL who is coming off his entry contract, the price this time around would be anywhere from $1-1.5 million. The 'Hawks are probably offering two or three years at a number closer to the bottom of that estimate.
Bowman likely wants to save even a few hundred thousand dollars per season on Kruger's cap hit. This would allow him to add to the roster if the right player comes along.
Right now, CapGeek.com has Chicago's salary cap space at about $2.5 million. Depending on what Kruger agrees to, Bowman could fit one, or possibly two, additions on the cheap.
I don't think there is any doubt that Bowman wants Kruger back for a couple of seasons. Circumstances have allowed the negotiations to become a slow dance, however.
Even with less pressure to close a deal, I would imagine that we will see an announcement regarding a new contract for Kruger in the next few days. This is a deal both sides want to make.
UPDATE, July 12, 4:30 p.m. CST: Well, that was quick. Powers has posted that Kruger and the 'Hawks have agreed on a two-year deal. I'll weigh in on the deal and Chicago's cap situation when details come out.