After two seasons in the States, the Hurricanes have announced that defensive prospect Justin Krueger will return to where it all started for him as he has signed a two-year contract with Bern of Switzerland
Krueger becomes the second player (both defenseman) in the past week to head over seas and in Krueger's case, he is returning to where he made his professional debut.
Krueger was originally acquired in the 2006 NHL Draft as a seventh round draft pick. Like Gragnani they both are realizing that they may never get a full time NHL gig by showcasing their talents in the AHL, and after all the European leagues pay better than the AHL.
Justin still hopes to make an NHL roster and cites the New York Islander's Mark Streit as an example of an NHL player who took a different route to the NHL (Streit began his pro career in Switzerland before coming over to the States and becoming a full-time NHL player).
Also factoring into Justin's decisions was the ability to have a bigger impact on his national team (Germany). Krueger actually skated and played for Germany in this years IIHF World Championships.
Like Gragnani, Krueger is a restricted free agent, and his rights can be retained by the Hurricanes organization if they choose to present him with a qualifying offer.
The Checkers in particular will look much younger on defense next year as Krueger and Gragnani were two of their older players. Guys like Danny Biega, Keegan Lowe, and Rasmus Rissanen are really going to have to step up if the Checkers are to be successful next year.
In 74 games this season (including the AHL Playoffs), Justin Krueger recorded 1 goal, 16 assists, and 17 points.
Note: Justin's dad Ralph Krueger is the head coach for the Edmonton Oilers and previously coached the Swiss national team.
Good luck in Switzerland Justin!!!