The 2016-17 NHL season is officially over after the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators in 6 games in the Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh has won back to back Cups for the first time since the 90’s and its due to a solid core group with great role players and veterans. However, the most difficult part of remaining successful in the salary cap era is being able to keep your team together year after year.
This offseason, the Penguins will have 12 free agents from their current NHL roster. With only $12.9 million in cap space, it’s very likely the back to back champions will have to let some players walk. Players such as Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Conor Sheary, and Brian Dumoulin could be solid additions to any team this summer, however I’m not looking at them. The player I’m looking at is 4 time Stanley Cup Champion, Chris Kunitz. In my opinion, Kunitz would be a good addition at a very low cost due to his age and recent production. He is a versatile player that could be moved up and down the lineup and would bring some needed veteran leadership to the locker room. Kunitz had a down year in the regular season, only scoring 9 goals and 29 assists in 71 games. However, he stepped it up when it mattered most, racking up 11 points in 20 playoff games, including the double OT game 7 goal to send the Pens to the Cup Final.
You may be thinking I’m throwing his name around from out of left field, but wait, there are connections from St. Louis for Kunitz; and many of them. Starting in the front office, GM Doug Armstrong has always been high on Kunitz, selecting him multiple times for Team Canada and choosing him over big named players. Behind the bench, Blues assistant coach Darryl Sydor played with Kunitz in his first season with Pittsburgh in ’08-09. Blues Head Coach, Mike Yeo also coached Chris Kunitz in their Stanley Cup winning season in ’08-09, and also coached him the following season in Pittsburgh. On the ice, Kunitz has played wit Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester on Team Canada multiple times. David Perron was recently on the Penguins so there’s another connection as well. Last but not least, former Penguin Robert Bortuzzo also has a connection to Kunitz. Makes you wonder, with so many connections, and at this point of his career wanting to win a 5th ring, would St. Louis be an ideal situation for Kunitz?
Now I’m not saying to go out and break the bank to sign him, something like a 1-2 year deal at $2.5 million tops should be around what Kunitz signs for. He can be slotted on the 3rd line (Kunitz-Sobotka-Barbashev?), or even on the 4th line. There’s many ways to move him around and play him and he can fit in multiple roles. He played 15:31 minutes per game this season, along with 1:35 PP minutes per game, and :44 PK seconds per game. He can provide a physical 2-way game, he tallied 216 hits and also 26 takeaways this season. His 216 hits would rank 2nd on the Blues, behind 239 hits from Ryan Reaves. No other player had more than 159 hits (Berglund), the Blues could use another physical presence. In my opinion, Kunitz would be a cheap, but valuable signing that provides needed tools for the Blues.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think Kunitz would be a reasonable add this offseason? Tweet me all of your comments and opinions @Palazzola_RTN. Please note: this story is speculating a possible interest in Chris Kunitz. Thanks for reading. If something is reported in the future connecting Kunitz and the Blues, I will post a follow up story on the topic.