RALEIGH — The migration of players from Chicago to North Carolina continued Tuesday, with Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis making his third addition from last year’s Blackhawks squad by trading for center Marcus Kruger.
Kruger, a 27-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden, comes to Raleigh via the Vegas Golden Knights, who less than two weeks ago also sent former Chicago defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to the Hurricanes. Vegas, who is joining the NHL for the 2017-18 season, retained the rights to both in a deal with the salary cap-strapped Blackhawks that allowed the Golden Knights to select van Riemsdyk in exchange for also taking Kruger and the $3.08 million cap hit he will cost the next two seasons. Kruger wasn’t officially trade to the Golden Knights until last weekend so Chicago could pay his $2 million roster bonus.
“We had a good conversation about the team and everything, so I got a real good feeling about everything,” Kruger, who talked to the media via conference call Wednesday, said of talking to Francis after the trade. “I feel very good. I’m happy to part of this organization and [am] excited.”
While Carolina used a 2017 second-round pick to land van Riemsdyk, Francis sent the Golden Knights just a 2018 fifth-round pick to acquire Kruger.
“I think for us, it’s the leadership, it’s the on-ice ability to show guys what it takes to be part of a team and how the team is first and foremost the most important,” said Francis of adding Kruger. “And when you get everybody buying into that, you have a much better chance of being successful and winning.
“We like him as a player, we like him as a person and we like what he brings to our organization as a leader as well,” Francis added.
In late April, Francis and Chicago GM Stan Bowman made the first of three trades this offseason when Carolina acquired the rights to goalie Scott Darling. Darling later signed a four-year, $16.6 million contract.
The acquisition of Kruger adds to an already busy offseason for Francis and the Hurricanes. On top of the three aforementioned deals, Carolina brought back Justin Williams on July 1, and also added forward Josh Jooris on a one-year, $775,000 deal at the start of free agency.
“I don’t think you can ever have enough guys in your room with playoff experience and, more importantly, playoff success,” Francis said. “You look at Marcus, he’s won two Stanley Cups, he’s won a World Championship. You look at Justin Williams: three Stanley Cups. You bring in van Riemsdyk and Darling, and each won a Stanley Cup. So that’s seven Stanley Cups with those four guys alone coming into our locker room.”
Kruger figures to slot behind Staal and Victor Rask in Carolina’s bottom six as a third- or fourth-line center. A capable penalty killer, Kruger should provide the Hurricanes with two of the game’s top defensive centers (with Staal) while shorthanded.
“You always want to do as much as you can to help the team out, and I certainly want to take a step and get better and better,” Kruger said. “Like I said, I’m going to go there and do my best and take the opportunity that’s given. … We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m going to do my best every day.”