Pens re-sign Chris Kunitz for 3 years, $3.85 million cap hit

Greg Fiume

The Pens lockup a key player, alternate captain Chris Kunitz, for an additional three years in a contract extension that will keep #14 with the Pens through 2016-17.

Kunitz has been a prototypical “Sidney Crosby winger” since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in 2009. His abrasive style in the corners and effectiveness winning wall battles for puck is very impressive and Kunitz is one the the team’s best forecheckers at applying pressure and hits on opposing defensemen, often disrupting breakouts and creating turnovers or at least limiting smooth passes.

$3.85 million to the cap isn’t a bad price- Kunitz has shown he has good hands and is worthy of being paid for that. He won’t finish in the top five in scoring every season, like he did this year, but it is a testament to him that he’s capable of getting hot and putting points on the board en masse.

There’s always the risk of injuries, especially for a smaller, aging player that plays such a physical style, but that’s the risk taken in every hockey contract. Kunitz hasn’t missed time to injury since the 2010-11 season, he’s shown some durability lately.

And he’s also shown chemistry with Evgeni Malkin. Whenever Crosby has missed time with injury, Kunitz has jumped to Malkin’s left wing, and Malkin’s line has suddenly flourished. Those two, along with James Neal, formed the NHL’s highest scoring line in the 2011-12 season that Crosby missed most of. This past 2013 lockout shortened year, Kunitz, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis were the highest scoring trio in the league. There’s no coincidence that Kunitz was a member of both lines. He’s an excellent hockey player that’s an ideal system fit for Pittsburgh, and he’ll be sticking around for three more years.

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