Kruger wants to sign with Chicago, but isn’t panicking (yet)

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It’s already mid-August, and Marcus Kruger still lacks a new contract from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The team’s salary cap bind remains, so the restricted free agent is still in limbo. He admitted to ESPN Chicago that he wants to get a deal done soon, yet he’s not agonizing over it.

“I want to have it done. I think that’s for everyone,” Kruger said. “But I don’t feel too stressed out about it, yet at least. We have another month until training camp.”

The 25-year-old has professed his patience and flexibility toward the Blackhawks’ situation more than once, and he stood by that, stating “whatever happens, it’s going to be good for me and them.”

It’s plausible that the Blackhawks may ask a little more from the Swede in 2015-16 after some significant departures in the likes of Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp.

His last contract carried a $1.325 million cap hit, while General Fanager pegs the Blackhawks’ cap space at just $231,540 right now.

As Kruger said, the Blackhawks still have time to figure things out, but it’s also true that the clock is ticking.

Blackhawks sign Bowling Green d-man Nolan Valleau

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The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to terms with defenseman Nolan Valleau on a two-year contract, the club announced today.

From the press release:

Valleau, 22, recorded 19 points (2G, 17A) in 39 regular-season games with Bowling Green of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association during his freshman campaign; he shared the team lead in assists and seventh among league defensemen in scoring. The Novi, Mich., native shared second on the team with seven power-play points (7A) and registered 37 blocked shots and a +3 plus/minus rating. He was named to the 2014-15 WCHA All-Rookie team.

As noted by CSN Chicago, Valleau will add “organizational depth” to the Blackhawks’ “blue line after trading away prospects Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns.”

According to ESPN, Valleau was “among the unsigned invitees who caught people’s eyes” at Blackhawks prospect camp.

Poll: Are the Lightning the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

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Standing still can be better than the alternative. While any improvement the Tampa Bay Lightning see will have to come from within after their quiet summer, they also haven’t endured any major losses.

Chicago was the oddsmaker’s favorites to repeat in mid-June, but since then the Blackhawks have parted ways with Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, and Johnny Oduya. To be fair, Chicago has also gotten some noteworthy additions like Artem Anisimov and they have some promising youngsters that might help fill the gaps like Artemy Panarin and Marko Dano.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Blackhawks have made some considerable sacrifices this summer in the name of cap compliance and that’s without talking about the elephant in the room.

Tampa Bay finished two wins shy of Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, so has the uncertainty created by Chicago’s turnover at least made the Blackhawks not quite as good of a bet as the Lightning?

Of course, even if you’re inclined to say that Tampa Bay is now in a better position than Chicago, that’s not the end of the debate. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have strong teams led by elite goaltenders and either one is capable of having a standout season. Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, which came closer to eliminating Chicago than Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues, which has fielded a great team for years, but hasn’t been able to put it all together once the playoffs start — yet.

You could bet on a Los Angeles Kings comeback or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overwhelming squads with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even then we haven’t covered all the teams that can legitimately claim to be serious contenders going into the season.

But this isn’t about who could win the Cup, it’s who has the best chance of doing so, even if it is by a narrow margin in a large field. Is Tampa Bay that team?

Poll: Has the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window closed?

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Back in 2013, the last time the Bruins made the Stanley Cup Final, their leading playoff scorers were, in order, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchard, Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Paille, Tyler Seguin, and Johnny Boychuk.

Of those 10 players, only four — Krejci, Bergeron, Chara and Marchand — remain on the roster. And Chara is 38 years old now.

Add to the fact Dougie Hamilton is gone too, plus the fact the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, and it’s no surprise that many feel their Cup window has closed.

But you won’t hear new GM Don Sweeney say that. Not with youngsters like Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, and Alex Khokhlachev up front. And not after picking up 27-year-old Matt Beleskey in free agency.

Remember that the NHL is a young man’s league. Teams that aren’t constantly refreshing their lineups are teams that get into trouble.

“I don’t think it’s a rebuild. We didn’t strip this down,” Sweeney said in June, per NHL.com. “We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing.”

OK, time to vote:

Related: Zach Trotman is looking to make the leap

PHT Morning Skate: Franzen gifts Nyquist with Babcock blanket of horror

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Hey, this is pretty cool: Jenny Scrivens looks like she’ll join the NWHL’s New York Riveters, so consider Jenny and Ben Scrivens hockey’s power goaltending couple:

More than a few people clamor for the Anaheim Ducks to go back to their Mighty jerseys, but if these rumored duds are true, expect some really bad “Orange you glad …” jokes. (Puck Daddy)

Phil Kessel in a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater is weird, but it becomes flat-out fun combined with shorts.

Does Tyler Seguin represent a “new breed” of NHL players? Maybe, but he really just wants to emulate other sports stars like Lebron James. (Sportsnet)

Talk about direct nightmare fuel: Johan Franzen presented Gustav Nyquist with this custom bedspread on Instagram:

source:

The caption is even better, though.

Hey Nyquist, I know you been sad ever since your dad signed for Toronto so I had these custom bed sheets made for u so u always can be close to him #detroit #detroitredwings #babcock #nyquist #separationanxiety #nhl

Honestly, if you need to kill some time, just pour over the Instagram account of “The Mule.”

Amazingly, that’s not the most jarring Red Wings-related image featured in this Morning Skate, at least if you follow this link to what they might wear at their next outdoor game. Maybe they won’t actually look like this? /Holds out hope for humanity (Sports Logos)