The Penguins signed forward Brandon Tanev to a six-year contract with a $3.5-million average annual value. Here are 5 takeaways as Pittsburgh wraps up free agency.
1. Who is Brandon Tanev?
Tanev, 27, has played the last three-plus years with the Winnipeg Jets as a forward. He set career highs across the board this season with 80 games played, 14 goals, 15 assists and 29 points. Tanev also ranked third in the NHL in hits with 278, and third among forwards with 81 blocked shots.
"The signing today was really good for us, we're really happy about it," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Everyone in the organization thinks very highly of him."
Tanev has really good speed that will fit well in the Penguins' up-tempo system. He also plays with an edge and is feisty, evidenced by the above hits and blocked shots rankings. Tanev makes life miserable for those who are on the ice against him.
"He's a really good skater. He's a good penalty killer," Rutherford said. "He's a guy that makes our team harder to play against.
"We feel he can move up and down the lineup. He's hard to play against 5-on-5. He's a good team guy. I talked to some people that have followed him really close and everybody spoke very highly of him."
2. Term and tenure
Rutherford and the Penguins invested six years and $21 million into Tanev, but it was a price the club was willing to pay in order to land the unrestricted free agent.
"That's the way things work on July 1. You either give the player close to what he wants, or you don't get the player," Rutherford said. "We felt so strongly about Tanev that we were willing to go as far as we needed to go to make sure we got him.
"With Tanev's age, the way he takes care of himself, the way he skates, I don't have an issue with the term."
3. Current state of the roster
Most of the changes to the Pens' roster this offseason have revolved around the forward position as the club has acquired three new faces in Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun and, now, Tanev.
"It gives us depth throughout our lineup, much more balance, to get back to where we were in '16 and '17 where the coach can roll those lines and maybe play the lines a little more even-minutes basis," Rutherford said.
The Pens only move on defense was trading away Olli Maatta to Chicago for Kahun. But, Rutherford is comfortable with the current makeup of his defensive corps.
"The structure of our defense with right and left shots where they should be is what I like," he said. "Can we make it better? Sure, you can always make your defense better. I'm not saying it's the best defense in the league. It's a solid defense. It's a good enough defense.
"At this point in time I'm comfortable with our defense."
4. New culture
Rutherford has mentioned several times in the offseason about changing the culture inside the Penguins locker room. That would take a collective effort on the part of the players, the coaches and management. But the trades and moves made in the offseason will help in that evolution.
"It's new energy, new excitement," he said. "The three new guys that we've brought in that I've talked to were so excited they were coming through the phone. They bring that excitement to training camp and in our room every day for practice and throughout the year. That's what we were looking for."
The roster will remain relatively intact from now until the opening of training camp. And then it's up to the coaches to make the tough decisions.
"We've changed the makeup of our team," Rutherford said. "Now it's training camp and a time where the coach will have to work hard to bring it all together because we've got a few new guys, and where everybody can fit."
5. What's next?
As far as the roster, the Penguins have very little wiggle room due to their limited cap space, which Rutherford referred to as "tight."
The Penguins do not need to technically come into cap compliance until the regular season. But depending on how things shakeout in training camp, the club may be forced to make a change to get under the cap limitations.
"There's a good chance we will have to make another move," Rutherford said.
With the roster mostly in place, Rutherford's focus will now shift to some of the hockey operations staff, most notably head Mike Sullivan, whose contract expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.
"Up until this point my focus was to change some of the players," Rutherford said. "I would like to see him stay long term, but when I get to that I don't know."