The Penguins have agreed to a three-year contract extension with left winger Chris Kunitz believed to be worth a total of $11.55 million. The deal which doesn't begin until the start of the 2014-15 season, will have a salary cap hit of $3.85 million.
Kunitz, 33, has one year remaining on his current deal with a salary cap hit of $3.725 million. This past season, Kunitz appeared in 48 games and scored 52 points (22 goals, 30 points).
-EN Says: Retaining Kunitz, a player who has been durable and consistent in his production the past two seasons, for a minimal bump in terms of his cap hit is a success. For everything Kunitz provides, this is a bargain.
Having established a comfort level with Sidney Crosby (and at times, Evgeni Malkin), Kunitz has proven to be a vital asset for the Penguins' top players. His blend of tenacious forchecking and scoring touch has made life easier for the past two Ted Lindsay Award winners.
Kunitz has also established himself as a net-front presence on a power play which was on of the league's best this past season.
There are a few questions about this deal however.
First, how sound is it giving a three-year extension to a player who plays a pretty rough and tumble style and is is entering his mid-30s? Kunitz has played in every game the past two season and has been remarkably durable, but it's hardly outrageous to wonder how much wear and tear there is on his body after being in the NHL for nearly a decade.
Second, what does this do for the futures of Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang and others? With Kunitz signed, the Penguins' scheduled salary cap payroll is $37.95 million for only seven players (Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin, Beau Bennett, Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Martin and James Neal.) That's a lot of salary cap space tied up to only a few players.
Can the Penguins re-sign a franchise player like Letang and/or a valuable role player like Dupuis and be able to fill out the rest of the roster with sufficient depth?
(Photos: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)