This was an easy deal on both ends of the table.
The Penguins wanted Chris Kunitz.
Kunitz wanted to be a Penguin.
The Penguins and Kunitz, 33, agreed to a three-year contract extension with a $3.85 million average annual value that will keep No. 14 wearing a Penguins crest until 2016-17.
“It’s exciting for me and my family,” Kunitz said. “The stability of having an extra three years on a deal is really nice, but knowing that we’ll part of a classy organization, well coached team and lot of great teammates, a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup every year, that’s definitely an exciting thing.”
Here’s a look at what this deal means for both sides…
ON THE ICE
The most important aspect of Kunitz playing for the Penguins for the next four years is, well, Kunitz’s play.
Kunitz’s style of hockey is indispensable. He plays with a physical edge, wins puck battles, creates puck possession time and opens up space for the Penguins’ world-class talent to do their thing.
It is not a coincidence that the best lines in the NHL the past two seasons have featured Kunitz on the left wing (Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal in 2011-12 and Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis in 2012-13).
But with Kunitz’s rugged style of play, sometimes his own offensive talent gets overlooked. The 6-foot, 193-pound winger has topped 20 goals in each of the past three seasons – establishing himself as one of the Penguins’ most consistent and reliable players. His 22 goals and nine power-play goals in the 2012-13 campaign were the highest marks on the team.
To have that physical play and scoring production in the Penguins’ lineup for the next four years is huge.
The length of the contract extension was a big deal for Kunitz. The three-year extension kicks it at the conclusion of his previous deal – which has one-year left.
In all, Kunitz is signed with the Penguins for the next four seasons, providing security and stability for his family.
Kunitz is 33 years old. At the expiration of the deal he will be 37. And Kunitz is hoping that he’ll still be looking for a new deal at that time.
“The older you get, you can’t really control how your body adjusts,” Kunitz said. “You obviously take care of yourself and hope for the best. I don’t expect to be slowing down too much.
“Hopefully, that won’t be the end of it. Hopefully, there are years after that.”
The contract length also provides the Penguins with security and stability. Now they know they’ve got their first-line left winger locked up for the next four seasons.
When constructing his teams, general manager Ray Shero has outlines that go as far as three or four years down the road. Knowing that Kunitz will be a part of the organization will help him with his long-term plans.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Since Kunitz is 33 years old, there is a possibility this will be his last big contract.
Kunitz’s current contract pays him an average annual value of $3.725 million. Coming off of three consecutive 20-goal seasons, Kunitz could have gotten a significant pay raise – especially if he had chosen to test the open market in next year’s free agency.
But money wasn’t the most important thing for Kunitz, which may explain why his new deal ($3.85 million AVV) is only an increase of $125,000. That’s a very friendly cap-hit for a 20-plus goal scorer, and gives the Penguins extra money to spend on other players to ice the best possible team.
“You want to be a on a team that has a chance to win every year,” Kunitz said. “When you click with the coaching staff and have young superstars that carry your team every night, you get to go out and play with, it makes it hard to want to test the waters for a guy like myself.
“When you get to a certain point in your career you have to take care of your family. You may not want to risk things as much as if you played out the year and tested free agency. I was pretty ecstatic to get something done.”
ODDS & ENDS
At his final season meeting, the Penguins asked Kunitz if he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. Kunitz said he did. The deal came together in the last few days and was finalized quickly.
Kunitz said one of the biggest reasons he wanted to re-sign was to play for a team that would compete every year for a Stanley Cup. But he also noted how special the Penguins organization is.
"The way our management and coaching staff respect the players and their willingness to work with us makes it fun to come to the rink everyday," he said. "I don't know if you get that a lot of sports. A lot of our guys spend more time at the rink than other teams just because we enjoy being around each other, being around the facilities and being around the coaches. They make it enjoyable."