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Blackhawks, Kruger agree to two-year contract @NHL

The Chicago Blackhawks agreed to terms with forward Marcus Kruger on a two-year contract, the team announced Friday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Kruger, 23, was a restricted free agent and the last key player left unsigned for the Stanley Cup champions from their title run. He had four goals and 13 points in 47 games during the regular season and settled into a role on the fourth line and as one of the team's top two forwards on the penalty kill.

"We've always liked Kruger," coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune. "He complements the way you like your group to play. He adds speed, he adds purpose. He really enhanced our penalty killing to a different level this year. He was very instrumental is taking leadership and ownership of being a part of that group. [That's] something that definitely flies under the radar. Zero maintenance. You appreciate how he competes every game and [for] every puck. Exactly how you want a guy to play."

He had three goals and five points for the Blackhawks in 23 postseason games, and averaged more than three minutes of shorthanded ice time per playoff contest. That lead all Chicago forwards and trailed only defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in a group that was successful at erasing 90.8 percent of the power plays it faced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kruger spent much of the postseason on a line with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik, but those players were traded away on the day of the 2013 NHL Draft. Kruger likely will open the 2013-14 as the center of a new-look fourth line.

"Marcus had a great season for us," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told the newspaper. "... We looked back and he's a very tenacious player, I think he's very smart. He's gained some strength over the last couple of years, which has allowed him to play against better players and stronger players and his ability to help us in a lot of different ways. ... Looking into next year, I think his role's only going to get bigger."

Of the 19 players who appeared in at least 18 of the Blackhawks' 23 postseason games, 16 are under contract for next season, a dramatic contrast to the exodus of players after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.

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