The 29-year-old center was an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2018-19 season, when he had 12 points and a 47.6 Corsi-For rating, won 48.1-percent of his faceoffs and averaged the lowest time-on-ice of his career at 10:25.
Kruger, along with forward prospect MacKenzie Entwistle, forward Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019-fifth round pick, were acquired from the Coyotes in July 2018 in exchange for Marian Hossa’s contract, winger Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a 2019-third round pick.
Maletta’s contract with the Blackhawks was terminated at the start of the 2018-19 season, which ended his professional career. Campbell had eight points in 64 games for the Rockford IceHogs, and is unlikely to be re-signed by the Blackhawks as a UFA.
Kruger played eight seasons for the Blackhawks after being drafted in the fifth round (No. 149 overall) of the 2009 NHL draft. He was traded to the Golden Knights in July 2017 for future considerations then moved to the Hurricanes two days later. Kruger battled injuries and only played in 48 games with the Hurricanes during the 2017-18 season. He was traded to the Coyotes in May 2018 and returned for a second stint with the Blackhawks following the aforementioned Hossa trade.
Kruger will be remembered as a hard-working, defensive-minded bottom six center that killed penalties, took the majority of defensive zone starts (70.8 dZS% in eight seasons with Chicago) and got matched up strategically with one of the opponent’s top three lines. He had 117 points in 472 regular-season games with Chicago and was a vital piece of the Blackhawks’ 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup title runs.