Tampa Bay Lightning sign forward Chris Kunitz to a 1-year deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 14: Chris Kunitz
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 14: Chris Kunitz /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed former Pittsburgh Penguins left wing and four-time Stanley Cup Champion Chris Kunitz to a one-year deal worth $2 million

Today marked the start of the NHL’s Free Agency Period.  Commonly referred to as the “Free Agent Frenzy”, most (if not all) teams have been shaken up a bit.  The Tampa Bay Lightning are no exception.

The Lightning went into today with a few needs to address and not a lot of salary space to do it with.  One of those being depth on the wing.  This was answered by signing former Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz to a one-year contract worth $2 million.

Kunitz is a four-time Stanley Cup champion that has spent the past 8 years of his career with the Penguins.  In his time with the Penguins, he became an alternate captain, which is no small feat on a team as dominant as the Penguins.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

However, Kunitz didn’t have the most productive season last year.  Registering only 9 goals all season long, his 29 points was a drop-off from his usual production.

However, on a team with as much firepower as the Penguins have, Kunitz settled into more of a support role.  This was illustrated by 20 of his 29 points coming from assists.

Kunitz should be able to play a role for the Lightning.  He’ll likely step in on the second or third line and play a support role to players like Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat.  He plays with grit, and because of that, will have a place with the Lightning.

It’s obvious that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman didn’t want this deal to be long-term.  As it’s just a one-year deal, Yzerman wants to make sure that Kunitz is worth the investment before inking him for any longer.

It’s important to remember that Kunitz is already 37 years old and isn’t getting any younger.  He has a limited number of seasons left in the NHL, and it’s yet to be seen if he’ll be worth keeping around longer than next season.  The hope is, of course, that he will be.

Next: Luke Witkowski signs with Detroit Red Wings

This signing should solidify the top three lines of the Lightning.  The low hit on cap space makes him even more worth the deal.  In this, the Bolts have gotten themselves a solid top 9 forward and maintained all important cap space that’ll become more and more important in the coming weeks.