Four-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz is off to Tampa Bay, where he has signed a one-year $2MM deal with the Lightning. The deal also includes $1MM in performance bonuses according to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, based on ice time, games played and the team making the playoffs.
Kunitz is coming off a strong playoff performance for Pittsburgh. Most notably, he scored the double-overtime winner in Game 7 against Ottawa which propelled the team into the Finals. He’s always been a solid possession player – never posting a Corsit For below 51% since the stat was tracked in 2007-08. His productivity on the wings of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin placed him in the upper echelon of wingers in the league. Last season, the 37-year-old saw his first major decline in goal production during the regular season. He dropped to 9 tallies from the previous season’s 17, and noticeably looked a step slower. He became an expendable piece who moved up and down the lineup with the emergence of forwards Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel.
Still able to provide leadership and a physical element, Kunitz will hope to prove that he belongs on a Tampa Bay team that is thin on the left wing. Tampa will look to lean upon his intangibles to catapult them back into playoff contention after a rough 2016-17 season. If he can regain some of his previous production, the deal will look all the better. His previously noted flexibility will come in handy in the case of injuries, and he has shown his ability to play effectively along top talent. It’s difficult to imagine him looking out of place slotting alongside Steven Stamkos or Tyler Johnson in a pinch. The biggest risk of course is with regards to his age, and whether he will continue to be as unproductive offensively as he was in the latter half of the season in Pittsburgh.