Kris Versteeg, of 2010 Blackhawks Championship fame and most recently a Florida Panther, has returned to the Windy City.
And they seem happy to have him.
“When (Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman) called me about getting traded to Toronto, I said if there’s ever a chance, I would love to come back. It obviously happened,” Versteeg told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago after his first return practice at Johnny’s Icehouse in Chicago.
He said the trade was a pleasant surprise during dinner late Thursday night.
“I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” he said. “Florida, we were struggling a little bit and you heard that there might be something going on. But obviously when Dale (Tallon, Panthers’ General Manager) called me last night and told me I was coming back here, it obviously put a smile on my face.”
Versteeg has been skating with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw in practice and is expected to play with them tonight in Nashville.
“Me and Shaw and (Versteeg’s) skill, hopefully we can get some good chemistry early,” Bickell, who played with Versteeg at the AHL level in Norfolk, said. “He has a lot of different things he can bring to the table. He can do penalty kill, power play, and he can do what it takes to help the team win. His skill level is up there.”
Tallon (a former Blackhawks GM) said the move was based on Versteeg’s inconsistent performance–the player who has scored 20 goals three times has had only two goals and five assists in 18 games with the Panthers. He said Versteeg, who’s coming off an ACL surgery, was “trying to do too much, trying to carry the burden of the big contract.”
Coach Quenneville, however, hasn’t forgotten Versteeg’s 42 goals and 55 assists from 2008-2010 in Chicago.
And, it seems, Versteeg, has the incentive of playing where he wants to play.
Versteeg, who has 06-09-10, the date of his Stanley Cup win with the Blackhawks tattooed on his arm, told Bowman when he was traded shortly after the championship that if there were ever an opportunity to come back, he wanted it.
He got it, and the Panthers are footing half of the bill — a $4.4 million contract over the next two years.
“Nice acquisition for us,” Quenneville said. “Steeg is very versatile in what he brings to our team. He can play all positions up front. You can play him in all situations — PP, PK regular shift. Pretty handy guy and very useful. We like what he brings to the team.”
All that aside, he’s an esteemed rapper.
Versteeg fans… he’ll be wearing a 23 now, instead of 32. And he’ll hopefully bring some dominance to the Power Play and Penalty Kill that we can’t seem to keep our grasp on.
Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen were dealt to Florida in the deal.
In other parts of line-juggling, Michal Handzus and Michael Kostka are on long-term injured reserve.
The Blackhawks take on the Predators in Nashville at 7 p.m. CT tonight (Saturday.) Nikolai Khabibulin, after a considerable hiatus and being pulled in his last outing, will start in net.