About 45 days ago the Pittsburgh Penguins made their splash in free agency when they added Brandon Tanev. The repercussions of making this move still haven’t even been fully realized since the Pens will have to trade someone else to fit the salary of their new winger into the cap structure.
Which for many is the full stop. The Pens spent too much ($3.5 million annually) for far too long (six years) to a lower line players. That’s a tough pill to swallow, it’s a decision that will likely haunt the team down the line — and maybe even as soon as they have to give up Bryan Rust for little to no immediate return!
But, for now there’s peace and calm. And while everything in a salary cap world ultimately reverts back to how the financial pieces of the puzzle fit, what can we learn about Tanev on the ice?
He was once considered one of the worst players in the league
Even the Jets fans thought so. Tanev was not very impressive upon first breaking into the league. In the 2016-17 season he scored a measly four points (2 goals + 2 assists) in 51 NHL games with not very pretty advanced stats either.
Just check out this scathing (but warranted) season review from 2017 that our Winnipeg SBN site Arctic Ice hockey wrote up on Tanev:
First of all, Tanev is a 25 year old rookie meaning he is in his prime already. His prime is four points in 54 NHL games. This is not a young player adjusting to the NHL, this is a player in his prime playing well over his head. This is a problem if the Jets want to improve year to year as Tanev will not help them accomplish this.
Where do we begin here? Brandon Tanev is not just bad, he is most likely one of the worst forwards in the NHL. When healthy he rarely broke 45% CorsiFor. He should not be in the NHL. This is not like Joel Armia who does not drive possession or kills penalties effectively, he just kind of exists on the ice and makes the Jets worse when he is on the ice. However, Paul Maurice loves him because he is a fast skater and appears to be doing things whenever he is on the ice
But Maurice’s faith in Tanev eventually did pay off, and he ended up growing well beyond initial expectations. Check out the ton shift from the same writer in her 2019 review of Tanev:
Tanev is definitely not one of the worst forwards in the league. A few seasons ago, he is now an average forward on the Jets which means he is no longer a liability. Furthermore, he has scored over ten goals this year and is no longer a black hole of offence. That combined with his speed means that he was an asset to the Jets this past season and could remain one if they can sign him for a bargain contract.
Well, so much for the bargain contract but let’s try not to think about that while we still can.
Capitals fans don’t like him
Hey, a good thing (although for a bad reason)! Tanev gained some infamy in Washington when he hit Evgeny Kuznetsov in the head last November.
Tanev was assessed a two minute minor for an illegal check to head but the league did not follow up with further discipline. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reported:
“[The NHL’s] Department of Player Safety determined that Kuznetsov materially changed the position of his body or head immediately before or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact, and there was also a lack of force that didn’t elevate the hit to suspension-worthy.”
Kuznetsov did turn a bit, but it always looks bad with the arm and high contact. Kuznetsov would leave the game and be out of action for two weeks due to a concussion.
Tanev did play against the Capitals since that game, and he did not fight or take any penalty minutes, so who knows if this incident is “closed business” or something that he may be challenged about still to come..But more than likely his future actions will probably result in a Washington player getting annoyed with him.
If you’re worried Tanev is a dirty player or has a habit of throwing bad hits, there’s this food for thought: he has never been suspended or fined in his 195 game NHL career.
Tanev has a career NHL hat trick
It’s true, he scored three goals in a game against Boston on March 27, 2018.
A bit of a weird one - the first is knocking in some trash on a scramble. The second is a nice use of speed and scoring off the rush, the third he scores shorthanded, again using speed to recover the puck and a wraparound effort scores.
Tanev scored eight goals in 61 games in 2017-18, so that means in the big picture he only scoring five goals in the other 60 games that weren’t this one, but hey, these ones do count!
So while the jury is still out about how much Tanev can live up to the massive contract he inked, for simply on the ice he should be a fun player to track. He can skate fast, he hits people and in recent years he’s done well to suppress shots and chances against while also generate some offensive production. If you look past the financial details it could at least represent an on-ice net positive player for the team.