People strain to find “turning points,” but the Pittsburgh Penguins really seemed to pivot when they added Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz around the 2009 trade deadline. He might not be blessed with the greatest finishing ability for a top-six forward, but Kunitz is a fantastic fit for the Penguins’ system.
The team decided to show how true that is by handing him a two-year contract extension today. The full deal is worth $7.45 million, which works out to $3.725 million per year – the exact salary cap hit he’s currently registering.
Kunitz might not be a household name, but he’s a ferocious forechecker whose high-effort game works well with frequent linemate Sidney Crosby. His numbers are suffering a bit without the Penguins superstar – Kunitz has one point in four games this season – but he’s the poster child for Dan Bylsma’s North-South philosophies.
To some, Kunitz will always provide a compelling counterpoint to the guy he was traded for: Ryan Whitney. While Whitney has more offensive gifts – even as a blueliner – Kunitz creates mistakes instead of making them.
Here’s an interesting thing to chew on: as of this moment, Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin now hold the longest-running contracts for any Penguins forwards, as their deals run out after the 2013-14 season. Kunitz is clearly part of “the plan” in Pittsburgh.