This summer, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed to shed salary and the Chicago Blackhawks like methodical defensemen. On June 15, the Penguins sent $4 million defenseman Olli Maatta to Chicago for versatile forward Dominik Kahun. Adding Kahun saved the Penguins more than $3 million and added a little more skill to their forward crew which suddenly has more plugs than Joe Biden.
Am I allowed to make that joke without a political debate to follow?
Kahun, 24, was born in the Czech Republic, like fellow Penguins forward Dominik Simon, but identifies as German and has played for Team Germany in international competition including the Olympics. Kahun, like Simon, is also just under 6-foot, and under 180-pounds. And, like Simon, is also a versatile forward capable of playing both wings, has sneaky skill and playmaking ability.
In Chicago, Kahun played with both the grinders and the stars. Last season was his rookie year and first in North America. He scored an impressive 37 points (13g, 24a) which are a little better than Simon’s 28 points (8g, 20a). In PHN Penguins line projections, Kahun displaces Simon in the Penguins lineup, and Simon will become the 13th forward, though such decisions are still more than a month away.
The Big Kahuna or simply a slightly more productive Simon?
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan’s willingness to shuffle lines, shuffle lines, and shuffle lines again will be a determining factor in Kahun’s final numbers. Film work is nice, but until we see Kahun beside Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby or Nick Bjugstad, it’s a little guesswork. We know Simon juiced the Bjugstad-Hornqvist pairing. We also know the Penguins have unsettled openings beside Malkin.
At very least, Kahun figures to induce a few less frustrated groans from the Penguins faithful and convert a few more scoring chances than Simon.
Kahun is not a strong player on the wall or a plugger, but has skill and good skates. He opened eyes in the 2018 Winter Olympics by scoring five points (2g, 3a) in seven games. He also had five points (1g, 4a) for Team Germany in the 2019 World Championships.
Kahun is one of several new faces in the Penguins lineup including Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev and whoever else may arrive before the start of the season as Penguins GM Jim Rutherford clears more salary to sign RFA defenseman Marcus Pettersson. If the Penguins coaches follow through on their current leanings to have Alex Galchenyuk play the right side with Sidney Crosby, then Kahun is a prime candidate to take one of the wings beside Evgeni Malkin, which can be a very lucrative position.
Prediction: Kahun will be used in the same variable way Simon was deployed last season. We will see Kahun on the top line, bottom line and everywhere else. Pending his time on the top lines, 20 goals is a realistic possibility.
18 goals. 30 assists. Positive plus/minus. Maybe even a second PP unit role.
Pittsburgh Penguins fans will credit Rutherford for another steal from Chicago…before criticizing something else. He may not become the Big Kahuna, but he will have every chance to be a valuable piece to the Penguins puzzle…even as where the piece fits continually changes.