RALEIGH — At a pivotal point in their season, the Carolina Hurricanes placed forwards Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris on waivers Thursday. The NHL’s other 30 teams will have until noon tomorrow to make a claim on either player, otherwise they will be eligible to be assigned to the AHL.
Both players are in their first year in Carolina. Kruger was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights on July 4 for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick. He had played his previous seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cups and becoming the team’s shutdown fourth-line center.
He was traded to Vegas for future considerations last offseason, likely as part of an expansion draft deal with the Blackhawks, before being flipped to Carolina. He has one year left on a contract that has a cap hit of $3.083 million, though it will costs just $2.3 million in real money.
Kruger has one goal and five assists in 48 games with the Hurricanes this season. For the first time this season, he was a healthy scratch on Tuesday for the team’s pivotal Metropolitan Division game against Philadelphia. The Flyers won 2-1 in overtime.
Kruger was acquired to ease the defensive burden on center Jordan Staal, and he was a respectable minus-6 on the season. But the Hurricanes scored just 11 goals in 48 games when Kruger was on the ice.
“We are going to try and dress a lineup that we think is going to be able to compete and be dangerous offensively every night,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said Thursday after the two were placed on waivers. “We’ll see what happens. Two good players, NHL players. Good men.”
Despite averaging just 10:50 minutes a game, Kruger also ranked third on the team in penalty minutes with 28 and struggled when paired with Joakim Nordstrom on the penalty kill for most of the first half of the season, when the coaching staff moved Nordstrom back with Staal on the top forward kill unit. The penalty kill has since climbed back to respectability, ranking 21st at 79.1 percent. That also ranks fourth in the eight-team Metro.
Jooris, signed as a free agent to a one-year contract over the summer, has been unable to establish himself as a mainstay in the Hurricanes’ lineup, playing in 30 games with three goals and three assists. His one-way contract pays him $775,000 this season.
The Hurricanes will have options come noon tomorrow, when claims for players on the waiver wire are due. If either or both players go unclaimed, the Hurricanes could opt to keep them with the team or assign them to Charlotte.
Carolina could recall as many players as they move off their roster, meaning if both players are claimed, assigned to the Checkers or a combination of those two results, the Hurricanes could recall two players from the AHL.
Charlotte has several high-scoring players who could be options. Andrew Miller, with 43 points in 48 games, is tied for third in AHL scoring. Valentin Zykov leads the AHL in goals (23) and power play goals (13), while Warren Foegele is tied for fourth in goals (21), first in even-strength goals (17) and tied for first in shorthanded goals (4). Lucas Wallmark also has 31 points in 30 games, one of six players currently in the AHL to play 30 games this season and average more than a point per game.