Continuing with our season recaps, today the focus is on the longtime sidekick and friend of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz.
Age and Contract Status
Age: 36 (September 26, 1979). Will be a free agent on July 1, 2017. Contract carries an AAV of $3,850,000.
Kunitz was expected, once again, to have a top-six role alongside Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. With Mike Johnston (and eventually Mike Sullivan) at the helm of the team, Kunitz was still expected to perform his signature style of play: get in the dirty areas in front of the net to score dirty goals.
This season was more of the same from the grizzled veteran. In 80 games, Kunitz managed to score 17 goals and accumulate 40 points. For some, it may seem like he doesn't light the lamp enough when playing alongside two generational talents like Crosby and Malkin, but at 36, Kunitz still deserves the role he is given. Many questioned how he would fare in Mike Sullivan's system that revolved around speed, speed, and more speed. I'd say he held his own at his advanced age.
Kunitz might not be the fastest skater on the team and his hands might be diminishing, but he is still able to take a beating in front of the opposing goalie to get a goal.
With this being the final year of his contract, Kunitz will most likely play it out and more than likely be with the Penguins as their left wing depth leaves a lot to be desired. Is this a swan song for Kuni? That remains to be seen of course, but given how he has played, what he has accomplished in his career and at his age, retirement will certainly be on his mind throughout the upcoming season.
Kunitz's HERO Chart
2015-16 Game-by-Game Analysis
Distribution of Teammates and Competition
GIFs of the Year
Kunitz and goal-scoring don't really go hand-in-hand anymore like they used to, but there are a few GIFs, especially the last one, where you think to yourself "Holy Kunitz, Batman!"
Do preseason GIFs count as GIFs of the year? Yes? No? Anyway, here is Kunitz setting up Phil Kessel for Kessel's first (preseason) goal as a Penguin...
Here is Kunitz on one of the craziest backchecks you'll ever see. Kunitz was able to keep Joel Ward off of the score sheet in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. And, of course, we all know how that game turned out...
Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Chris Kunitz's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e., 1 being "he's too old and slow", 10 being "he is still my favorite player not named Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, or Letang".