Training camp starts exactly a month from Tuesday and Marcus Kruger remains unsigned by the Chicago Blackhawks. That might concern some fans, but the 25-year-old said during his Stanley Cup day that he's not worried about getting things sorted out prior to the start of the regular season in October.
"I want to have it done. I think that's for everyone," Kruger told ESPN's Scott Powers. "But I don't feel too stressed out about it, yet at least. We have another month until training camp.
"Right now I just try to focus on getting in the best shape I can be in a month from now. That's all I can do. Then, I think everything else will sort out. I love playing hockey. I know I'm going to do that. We will see what happens, but I'm not too worried about it."
Kruger, the Hawks' fourth-line center for two Stanley Cups, hit restricted free agency this summer after the expiration of a two-year, $2.65 million deal. Expected to receive a raise after emerging as one of the game's better defensive centers in recent years, that's been a challenge for the Blackhawks given their salary cap constraints, which already led to key players like Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya leaving the organization.
There doesn't appear to be any concern about Kruger leaving, which is good news given how important he's been to Chicago's penalty killing efforts, but the two sides don't appear any closer to a deal. The Blackhawks still have to figure out how to re-sign Kruger to a reasonable deal while staying under the cap, and that probably means making a trade or two -- something that's proven easier said than done. The good news is that everyone involved seems to expect a positive resolution.
The real question seems to be whether general manager Stan Bowman can figure out how to fit a long-term extension onto the books. The team already has $47.3 million committed to just eight players -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Corey Crawford -- for the 2017-18 season, and they'll also have to contend with Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano hitting RFA. So it's easy to see why, even if the books open up for this season with some deals, Bowman might be hesitant to commit too much money on a long-term deal.
Still, Kruger has said he's amenable to a short-term deal if the circumstances demand it, and there's a decent chance that's how things play out. A shorter deal would maintain flexibility for everyone, although it wouldn't give Kruger the big payday he's presumably hoping for at some point in his career. Either way, if Kruger's not worried, we won't be, either. And with Phillip Danault out until at least November following surgery, maybe there will be a little more urgency to figure things out.