More than a few people felt like the Pittsburgh Penguins were about to part ways with Tyler Kennedy when they didn’t extend the center a qualifying offer. Apparently that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, though, as the Penguins reportedly signed Kennedy to a two-year, $4 million deal today. Kennedy was set to become an unrestricted free agent today because of the lack of a qualifying offer but obviously that won’t happen.
Before we discuss Kennedy a bit, it’s important to connect his signing with the Penguins’ decision to pull their reported one-year, $2 million offer to Jaromir Jagr. You never know if the two sides can come to an agreement and make a lot of Penguins fans happy in the process – again, we thought Kennedy might be on his way out, too – but it doesn’t seem particularly likely at this time.
As far as Kennedy’s contract is concerned, it seems like a reasonable deal. The undersized center was a well-liked player among hardcore fans in Pittsburgh, but for his first three seasons, there was the sense that he couldn’t connect on the chances he created with his speed and hockey IQ. Injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin increased his workload with the Penguins through the second half of 2010-11 and he delivered with the best year of his career. He scored a career-high 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 80 game. Kennedy also averaged 14:32 minutes per game, the most of his career.
The Penguins have done a solid job of locking up role players lately, signing Kennedy, Arron Asham and Pascal Dupuis to new deals. Pittsburgh has 21 roster spots covered already with about $3.6 million of cap space remaining, according to CapGeek.com. That should keep the Pens from the few remaining big names in the mix, but they might be able to tweak their team with a solid forward or two.