He may not be piling up points yet, but Tanner Kero has shown his value to the Chicago Blackhawks
For a team that is hard pressed against the salary cap, finding value in players is key. Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman seems to have mastered the art of the value find. Bowman is known for finding players in different places. One player who has been helpful for the Blackhawks since his signing is Tanner Kero.
Kero was a little-known forward from Michigan Tech. Kero put up some impressive scoring numbers at Michigan Tech and was a 2015 Hobey Baker finalist.
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Since signing with the Blackhawks in 2014-15, Kero has only appeared in 26 games with 2 goals and 2 assists in parts of two seasons . These are not eye-popping stats by any means, but stats do not tell his entire story. While Kero has spent more time in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs than with the Blackhawks, he’s shown his worth to the big-league club.
Why is he so valuable?
Kero provides depth to the Blackhawks organization and can fill in at the NHL level when called upon. Last season, he appeared in 17 games with 1 goal and 2 assists. He played on the third and fourth lines and killed penalties.
This season, Kero did not make the Blackhawks out of training camp. He was sent down in favor of Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz, Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman. Kero kept working hard in the AHL and got hot at the right time. Before being recalled, he had 7 goals and 13 assists at Rockford.
While Hinostroza and Hartman are in the NHL to stay, Motte and Schmaltz have been sent down to Rockford to work on their games. Kero was recalled for the then-injured Artem Anisimov. He remains with the Blackhawks due to the injury to Marcus Kruger.
He currently centers the pesky third line with Hartman and Richard Panik on the wings. Kero is also filling in for Kruger on the penalty kill. While his scoring touch has not followed him to the NHL, he has helped the team in other ways. To be fair, he has started more in the defensive zone than in the offensive zone this season.
Another key factor with Kero is his salary. His cap hit is currently $667,500 with bonus potential of $92,500. If we look to the future, Kero might be another cost-effective depth player to stash at Rockford or, dreaming big here, replace Kruger.
The Blackhawks have to be looking to move Kruger’s $3.08 million dollar cap hit off of their books next season. And right now the Blackhawks will take better than expected play from Kero at the NHL level.