Ask any die hard Pittsburgh Penguins fan why the team was unable to progress past the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring following back to back Stanley Cup championships and you’ll likely receive a one word answer: leadership. More accurately, it was a lack of veteran leadership that the Pens suffered from in 2018-19, as they said goodbye to longtime veterans Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Chris Kunitz and Marc Andre Fleury last offseason. Losing one or two key voices from the locker room can really hurt a team, but with the Penguins losing four key veterans last offseason, they simply weren’t able to recover in 2018-19.
Now, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, the Pens could be on the verge of welcoming back one of their former leaders. Mackey reports that the Penguins have legitimate interest in unrestricted free agent Chris Kunitz, who of course left the team and signed a one year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning last offseason.
Pretty much expected, but yes, the Penguins do have interest in Chris Kunitz if there’s enough cap space to fit the former winger:
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has already confirmed that Kunitz will not be tendered an offer and will hit the open market on July 1st. Whether or not there are other teams vying for his services alongside the Penguins however remains to be seen.
What is clear is that the 38 year old Kunitz still has some more game left in him. In 82 games with the Lightning last season the veteran winger scored 13 goals and 35 points. Not bad. Not bad at all. Unfortunately, his offense dried up when it was most needed and he recorded just a single point in 17 postseason games.
At 38 years of age it’s hard to see Kunitz receiving anything more than a one year offer on the open market, but his $2 million cap hit from last season would fit snugly under the Penguins’ salary cap for 2018-19. What do you think, Penguins fans? Kunitz on a one year, $2 million deal?