Four time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz surprised just about everyone in the hockey world on the opening day of free agency when he signed a one year, $1 million deal with the struggling Chicago Blackhawks.
The 38 year old veteran looked to be on his last legs with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and many thought that his playing days in the NHL were over, but evidently there was something of a bidding war for Kunitz once free agency opened up on July 1st.
The Blackhawks were reportedly just one of several team who submitted an offer to Kunitz, but it was an offer from a “Western Canadian” team and Kunitz’s staunch refusal that has fans playing the guessing game nearly two weeks later.
According to a report from Chris Nichols of the FanRag Sports Network, Kunitz declined an offer from a “team in Canada out West” because he wasn’t enamoured with the team’s defense corps.
Check it out:
“Team in Canada out West” wanted to sign Chris Kunitz.
“But he’s like, ‘No, I don’t like their defensemen. They’re never going to win with those defensemen.’”
The above quotes come courtesy of Kunitz’s agent Ben Hankinson who said:
“He had a team offer him a great deal this summer… it’s a team in Canada out West that wanted to sign him that’s been a good team off and on. They’ve gone through their struggles. But he’s like, ‘No, I don’t like their defensemen. They’re never going to win with those defensemen.’
Hankinson goes on to say that at this point in his career, it’s “all about winning a Cup” for Kunitz.
So… what can we deduce from these two statements? Well, technically speaking there are only four NHL teams in Western Canada: the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks.
Kunitz was likely never in conversation with the Canucks, as they’re nowhere close to competing for a Cup.
The Jets are the closest of the bunch and actually boast a pretty strong defense corps with Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Josh Morrissey on the back end, so it’s unlikely that Kunitz rebuffed an offer from them.
Which means it’s likely down to the Battle of Alberta. Objectively speaking, the Flames boast a much deeper defense corps than the Oilers do, with the Flames top four of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic and newcomer Noah Hanifin blowing away the Oilers’ top four of Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and… Matthew Benning?
All signs seem to point to the Oilers as the team whom Kunitz turned down, but of course all we can do is speculate.