Blackhawks shed Marian Hossa cap hit and reacquire Marcus Kruger in multiplayer trade

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Blackhawks shed Marian Hossa cap hit and reacquire Marcus Kruger in multiplayer trade

The Blackhawks freed themselves from the remaining three years of Marian Hossa’s contract, but they paid a price to do it.

The Hawks traded Hossa — or more accurately, his $5.3 million salary-cap hit — to the Coyotes on Thursday in a multiplayer deal that also cost them forward Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a 2019 third-round pick. In return, the Hawks reacquired center Marcus Kruger along with two other forwards, MacKenzie Entwistle and Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 season with a serious skin condition and is not expected to play again, was an integral part of three Stanley Cup champions. His signing in the summer of 2009 signaled a change in direction for a franchise that had not won a title since 1961. But the 12-year deal carried a $5.3 million annual salary-cap figure that became a conspicuous burden for the Blackhawks when Hossa was no longer able to play.

“Marian’s long-term contributions to the club will never be forgotten,” the Hawks said in a statement. “His performance as a player was always appreciated, but it is his special qualities as a teammate, a leader and a person that will more than anything leave its mark on all of us who have come to love and respect the very humble way he goes about everything he does.”

Kruger, 28, rejoins the Blackhawks after one season with the Hurricanes, who dealt him to the Coyotes in May. The defensive specialist played seven seasons with the Hawks from 2010 to 2017 and was a member of the 2013 and 2015 Cup winners.

A valuable penalty-killer and checking center, Kruger’s departure from the Hawks was also related to the salary cap. He was traded to the Golden Knights in July 2017 for “future considerations,” which was a euphemism for salary-cap space. The deal reportedly was part of a larger agreement; the Hawks left defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk unprotected, and the Knights selected him in the expansion draft. The Knights eventually traded Kruger and van Riemsdyk to the Hurricanes in separate deals.

Neither of the other two forwards the Hawks acquired Thursday has NHL experience and likely won’t be making an immediate impact. Entwistle, a third-round pick in 2017, is only 18, while the 23-year-old Maletta managed just four assists in 29 minor-league games last season.

Hinostroza, 24, often was mentioned as part of a core group of young forwards around whom the Hawks were building their future. He recently signed a two-year extension that pays $1.5 million per season. The Chicago-born Hinostroza had seven goals and 18 assists in 50 games for the Hawks last season.

The Hawks signed Oesterle as a free agent in July 2017 and he worked his way into a regular role, occasionally pairing with Duncan Keith on the top defensive unit. Oesterle’s emergence was somewhat of a surprise, considering his track record in parts of three seasons with the Oilers. But the 26-year-old gradually became part of coach Joel Quenneville’s regular rotation thanks in part to his ability to play either the left or right side. In 55 games last season, Oesterle averaged 20 minutes, 31 seconds of ice time, scored five goals and assisted on 10 others.

Defense was the Hawks’ biggest need this offseason, and neither the departure of Oesterle nor the acquisition of the 30-year-old Campbell would seem adequate in addressing that concern. Campbell has appeared in just 42 NHL games for three teams since the Kings drafted him in 2008.

Now that the Hawks have opened some cap space, they may have greater flexibility to add depth on the blue line, possibly via a trade. They reportedly have been inquiring about Justin Faulk of the Hurricanes, a 26-year-old right-handed shot who has reached double digits in goals in three of the last four seasons. Faulk, a three-time all-star, is signed for two more seasons and carries an annual salary-cap figure of $4.8 million.

The deal with the Coyotes is not the first time the Hawks had to trade promising young players to shed an onerous contract. They included skillful forward Teuvo Teravainen in the trade that sent Bryan Bickell to the Hurricanes in 2016, and they packaged defenseman Stephen Johns in the deal that sent Patrick Sharp to the Stars in 2015.

Those money-motivated trades ultimately left the Hawks short-changed on the ice. The Hossa deal relieves the Hawks of a financial burden, but it puts the weight squarely on general manager Stan Bowman’s shoulders. Does he have a bigger move that could make a major impact in the works? The clock is ticking, and training camp is just more than two months away.

jknowles@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jknowles31

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