Under Pressure: Marcus Kruger

AP
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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

Now that Bryan Bickell has moved on, expect more attention to be paid to Marcus Kruger‘s contract in Chicago. The 26-year-old center is about to start a three-year, $9.25 million extension, and he’s coming off a season in which he had no goals and just four assists in 41 games.

To be fair to Kruger, he wasn’t really signed for his point production. He’s more of a defensive forward. In fact, no Blackhawks forward averages more time than he does on the penalty kill. He also missed 41 games after undergoing wrist surgery in December, and that’s a tough injury to come back from.

Still, for a cap hit of just over $3 million, a bit more offense is expected. In 2013-14, he had 28 points in 81 games, so he’s proven he can do it.

Next season, it’s possible that Kruger could start on the third line with Marian Hossa on his wing. Head coach Joel Quenneville apparently liked that combination in the playoffs against the Blues, even though Kruger finished the postseason with just one assist in seven games.

“Obviously, playing with a guy like that, it can’t get much better than that,” Kruger said, per The Athletic. “He’s an unbelievable player. That doesn’t change too much how I prepare for the season. Obviously (it’s) motivating hearing that I might get a chance to play with him. He’s been so good for so long. He’s such a great player.”

Of course, to whom much is given, much is required. So if Kruger does indeed get a chance to skate with Hossa, he knows he’ll be expected to be more than defensively responsible. He’ll need to put up the odd point, here and there.

Kruger will also have the advantage of suiting up for Sweden in the World Cup, playing with and against the best players in the game, something he called a “perfect way to start the season.”

We’ll see if all of the above helps Kruger get off to a productive start. If not, that contract of his may prove to be a rare blunder by GM Stan Bowman, a la Bickell’s.