When Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford spoke with Brandon Tanev after signing him to a six-year contract on the first day of free agency, he said he could feel the energy and excitement coming through the phone.
That was evident when the forward spoke with members of the media on a conference call, as he repeatedly expressed how much he's looking forward to joining the Penguins organization. While Tanev had conversations with many other teams, what sold him on Pittsburgh was the team's history and strong core.
"It's very exciting to take the next step in my career," Tanev said. "I'm very happy it's in Pittsburgh. The team has had great success. There's a great leadership group and management group here in Pittsburgh. I'm very excited to be a part of that. I'm looking forward to starting the season and getting things going and continuing that trend of success that this organization has had for many years."
The organization felt strongly about signing Tanev to his deal, which has an average annual value of $3.5 million, for a number of reasons. They felt that he will help change the culture in a locker room by bringing that eagerness and hunger.
They also love that he'll make the team harder to play against, with Tanev describing his style of play as "physical, fast and tenacious."
"He's a great penalty killer and he's got good speed, he gets chances on the PK to score," Rutherford said. "But the speed, the fact that we feel he can move up and down the lineup a little bit, be hard to play against 5-on-5, good team guy - I talked to some people that have followed him really close and everybody spoke very highly of him. Everybody in the organization thinks very highly of him."
Tanev, 27, comes to Pittsburgh from Winnipeg, where he originally signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent after a four-year career with Providence College - helping the Friars win the NCAA national championship in 2015.
He is coming off of a career year with Winnipeg in which he recorded personal bests in goals (14), assists (15), points (29), hits (278) and blocked shots (81). His 278 hits were third-most in the NHL, while his 81 blocked shots ranked third among all NHL forwards.
Tanev has been a staple on Winnipeg's penalty kill, averaging a career-best 2:08 minutes of shorthanded time-on-ice per game and scoring five shorthanded goals over the past two seasons, which is tied for fifth-most in the NHL.
"As you play more games in the league and get more confident your game tends to grow," Tanev said. "I played with great players in Winnipeg and owe a lot to the players there. At the same time though, you get very confident in yourself and understand the game you need to play to be successful in the league. That stems from the confidence that you build.
"I'm very excited to continue that trend, and there's a great opportunity in Pittsburgh to continue growing my game."