The Carolina Hurricanes celebrated Independence Day on Tuesday by adding another Swede to their roster, acquiring center Marcus Kruger from the Vegas Golden Knights.
This serves as yet another move to turn what was a real weakness into a strength - their depth up front.
Kruger is your ideal defensive center. He's spent years in Chicago’s bottom-six and penalty kill, and that’s where he will be playing under Bill Peters.
The metrics are good, though there’s an obvious hole in his game.
The hole is offense. While he generates a good corsi number, his production isn't anything to write home about. He had just 17 points a season ago and his career-high of 28 points came in 2013-14.
This trade, however, isn't about the offense that he brings. Kruger is a shutdown centerman that steps in and instantly serves as an upgrade in the fourth-line center role over Jay McClement. Kruger’s possession numbers are eons better and despite his mediocre offensive production, he’s not a liability.
Kruger’s presence on the penalty kill will be a big add. A season ago, Carolina’s penalty kill ranked atop the league for the majority of the season. Adding Kruger should only help this cause. Despite playing in a far more passive penalty kill scheme last year in Chicago, his smarts in the defensive end and his faceoff acumen (50.4% over his career) should help an aggressive Carolina PK.
Carolina’s now looking at Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger to be fixtures on their fourth-line, which is a hugely underrated step forward for this team. Bill Peters unapologetically roles all four lines, so having a strength on each line is less of a want and more of a big time necessity.
In addition, bringing in another center with shutdown characteristics should take pressure off of Jordan Staal, who has spent the past few years taking care of other team’s top forward lines.
If you’re not going to bring in a top-six center, the next best option is to open up your second-line center to be more aggressive offensively and face lesser competition at times, and this move should achieve that.
The move to bring in Kruger does, however, bring some questions.
It appears to be a two-horse race between Joakim Nordstrom and recently resigned Brock McGinn for the opposite wing of Josh Jooris on the fourth line.
The Hurricanes just gave McGinn a one-way deal for two years, so that should be a vote of confidence into the young winger, but on the other hand, they gave Nordstrom a $1.275 million AAV a season ago. That’s real NHL money. They also gave up a draft pick so that NHL roster players like Lee Stempniak and the aforementioned Nordstrom wouldn’t be selected by Vegas.
That doesn’t even factor in Phil Di Giuseppe, who is still a qualified restricted free agent whose future is very much still up in the air. One would assume that he won’t be playing up in Raleigh next season unless he really forces Carolina’s hand by having a great training camp.
Ultimately, the trade leaves the Hurricanes with options. Kruger seems to be a perfect fit for the bottom center role, now it’s a competition to see who fills in around him.