Restricted free agent profile: Tyler Kennedy

USA TODAY Sports

A look at the season that Tyler Kennedy had and whether or not he has a future as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

Basics

Player: Tyler Kennedy
Role: 3rd/4th line winger, 2nd unit PP
2013 regular season Box car stats: 46 games played, 6 goals, 5 assists, 19 PIMs, -6
Playoff stats: 9 gp, 2g, 3a, 2PIMs, +6


Usage

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Kennedy’s shot based advanced stats are pretty good, which you’d expect considering he’s a player that’s going to attempt a ton of shots from anywhere and everywhere. His quality of competition and zone-starts were pretty challenging, being as he was usually a 3rd liner with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke for most of the regular season before the acquisitions of Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla pushed him down the depth chart.

Goals wise, it wasn’t such a pretty picture. Tyler Kennedy was on the ice for 14 Penguin goals and 21 goals against in 2013, third worst among forwards beating out only Joe Vitale and Tanner Glass. For a guy who outshot the opposition, he sure saw more rubber go in his own net which could be a product of his limited playmaking ability, poor shot selection and decision making.

Interesting fact

Kennedy scored five of his six goals (and 8 of 11 points) this season against Atlantic Division opponents. Largely because of this production, his plus/minus was +6 against division opponents but a putrid -12 against Southeast/Northeast teams.

Three Reasons to keep him:

  • 1)Shots, shots, shots-- One can say a lot about TK, but you can’t say he won’t try and get pucks to the net. From everywhere. He’s routinely among league leaders in shots/60 played and when you shoot the puck it usually means A)you have the puck in the offensive zone B)there’s a chance it could go in. Both of those are good things and stringing together good things is how teams can win games.
  • 2)”Gets to his game”- A lot is made of the oft-repeated Dan Bylsma line “get to our game”. What does that mean? Well, it means things like skating up the ice quickly, getting in the offensive zone, using bodies/sticks to cycle pucks, winning wall battles, forechecking with speed, willingness to bodycheck, throwing pucks at the net, effort to get to the front of the net. When he is playing at his best, Tyler Kennedy is arguably one of the best forwards in the Penguins system at these little elements of what the Pens want to do. He’s a system fit in this regard when he is moving his legs and making himself noticeable.
  • 3)Still kind of young-Since he’s been an NHL regular since 2007 it may be difficult to remember, but TK is still just 26 years old. He’s not an old player and he’s one that has a history of scoring goals in the NHL. That’s not something that grows on trees (ask Eric Tangradi) but still something to consider. Players with the talent and ability to score- like Kennedy putting up 11 points in 15 games over the past two post-seasons is not something to be taken lightly. Teams need depth and even though he isn’t the most skilled, Kennedy is still a shot-generating NHL caliber forward fit to play on a 3rd line.

Three Reasons to not keep him:

  • 1)Production dried up- Ever since Kennedy scored 21 goals in Pittsburgh’s injury ravaged 2010-11 season, he’s only scored 17 goals in 106 games since then. Be it opportunities lost on power play time being cut or reduced caliber of linemates now that Jordan Staal is gone, Kennedy just hasn’t been able to score as regularly as he did earlier and has seemed to regress without much of a career path.
  • 2)Not a specialist- TK’s special teams time has decreased steadily over the past few seasons. He’s used 0:00 per game on the shorthanded units, and his PP time has gone from 1:57 per game in 2010-11 (when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were hurt) to 1:24 per game in 2011-12 to just 1:07 this year. Show me a lower line smallish forward who isn’t pitching in a lot on special teams and I’ll show you a guy who can be easily replaced.
  • 3)Flow killer-How many times has Kennedy taken the puck, streaked down the wing, seen a defenseman’s stick come at him but still try to get a shot off? The puck harmlessly deflects into the netting out of play. It seems like this happens constantly. A lack of in-zone passing ability and his decisions to frequently attempt to shoot (without much chance of success) was reportedly a reason the Pens never gave TK a real shot at being a Top 6 forward. He just can’t keep the flow of the game up to play with a talented center like 87 or 71.

Verdict:

Tyler Kennedy is at another career cross-roads. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Penguins have to make the first decision if they want to qualify him or let him walk to become unrestricted. They took the latter course of action two summers ago during the Jaromir Jagr flirtation, but then quickly moved back to TK when it became obvious that Jagr was going a different direction. This time, that situation won’t happen again, but it’s difficult to see how Kennedy still fits in the Penguins. If the team can re-sign Matt Cooke, they can keep Cooke-Sutter as the start of a 3rd line an add Jussi Jokinen or perhaps a free agent option. Kennedy probably doesn’t want to be a 4th liner at this point in his career, but it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have a bright future contributing too much with Pittsburgh.

Your call

Vote in the poll below on the simple question of should the Pens bring back Tyler Kennedy or should they let him go and add your comments below.

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