July 1st is always a day where the Pittsburgh Penguins seemingly lose more than they gain in terms of talent going out to free agency compared to guys signed back. 2017 would prove no different, especially on defense with Trevor Daley (DET) and Ron Hainsey (TOR) leaving the organization.
But the Pens recouped some of that depth in signing 32-year old defenseman Matt Hunwick to a three-year deal.
Expected deal for Matt Hunwick with Pittsburgh Penguins is 3 years at $2.25M AAV. #TSN— Aaron Ward (@NHL_AaronWard) July 1, 2017
Basically Ian Cole money.
What does this mean for the Pens next season? Well, a depth, veteran NHLer who shouldn't be out of place on the 3rd pair and add some strong PK play.
Hunwick is generally a depth guy, but has been used ambitiously at times.— Rob Vollman (@robvollmanNHL) July 1, 2017
Avg PK of 3:08 in TOR ranks 4th among NHL D last 2 yrs.
Hunwick is a decent enough puck-mover, his 18 assists at 5v5 last year would have tied him with Ian Cole for most among Penguin defensemen, and Hunwick's 1.06 Points/60 at even strength was better than any Pens D last year except for Kris Letang. That's heady praise, but no need to overstate it, Hunwick isn't a dynamic player but seems to be reasonable enough at it.
With a top 4 defense of Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz (the latter 2 restricted free agents expected to be signed soon), Pittsburgh didn't have a lot of depth to fill out the team.They've got Ian Cole as a solid guy but beyond that? Not too much.
There's Chad Ruhwedel, who re-signed last year who performed admirably last season but let's pump the breaks and remember that age age-27, Ruhwedel's never spent a full season at the NHL level and his career high in games played is 34, coming last year.
There's also Derrick Pouliot a restricted free agent, but he's never seemed comfortable under coach Mike Sullivan, and Sullivan has never seemed all that comfortable putting him in the lineup.
The Hunwick signing will be a success or failure based on how Sullivan deploys him. If they sensibly make him a 3rd pair depth guy, it should be OK; not great but not terrible. If they decide to do something crazy like make him top-4 minutes with Maatta as a shutdown defensive pair, it's likely to be a bloodbath.
Three years is a lot, but the cost of doing business to add an NHL caliber defenseman on July 1. Also, compared to league-wide, gotta like the Hunwick money more than the other notable signings that have already gone down:
MTL Alzner $4.625M 5yrs— Rob Vollman (@robvollmanNHL) July 1, 2017
WPG Kulikov $4.33M 3yrs
EDM Russell $4.0M 4yrs
CGY Stone $3.5M 3yrs
DET Daley $3.178M 3yrs
Still, different debate for a different day, for today Pittsburgh needed to recoup a little bit of depth since they lost some today, and managed to do so at what is a fairly sensible price for the NHL free agent market.