And the keyboards were off and running. At the stroke of noon and the beginning of NHL Free Agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed right wing grinder Brandon Tanev to a six-year, $21 million contract which will run through 2025-26.
The move would have been impossible if not for the Phil Kessel trade on Saturday.
Tanev, 27, is a gritty and speedy right winger who will slot into the Penguins bottom six with ease. The former Winnipeg Jets forward had a career year last season. He scored 15 goals with 14 assists for 29 points. He also had a couple of shorthanded goals.
Tanev is not a large player. He’s 6-foot, 180 pounds but he makes an impact. The down line, high-intensity player also made 278 hits while starting 59% of his shifts in the defensive zone.
The term of the deal is the most curious aspect as third and fourth line players do not earn six-year contracts. However, Tanev’s young age and relative lack of wear-and-tear allowed the Penguins to offer an extended deal. Tanev has just 195 NHL games experience.
The scouting book on Tanev is similar to current Penguins winger Bryan Rust. He is an intense player who plays every shift with grit and physicality. Coaches trust him in the defensive zone and he punishes opponents. His speed is an asset as is his tenacity and hockey IQ.
Tanev has significantly increased his production in each of his three NHL seasons. So there is also wonder if he has a yet untapped offensive game.
Brandon Tanev Analysis:
The Penguins fans and blogosphere were laying in wait. The move provided the Penguins another bottom-six player with speed and, as the hockey folks say, sandpaper. And jam, too.
The six-year contract seems to be the biggest sticking point for social media unrest. Change the angle of thinking and it’s not bad. Would fans complain over a two-year, $7 million deal for a 31-year-old? Not much fuss, right? That’s exactly what Tanev will be. Or imagine a four-year deal worth $14 million for a 29-year old, which is exactly what Bryan Rust received.
It’s not a bad deal. It is interesting the Penguins chose to spend their money on a grinder when their bottom six is full, but clearly one or more players will be elsewhere next season. Dominik Simon and Rust have been duplicated by Dominik Kahun and Tanev.
It’s also not a move which puts the Penguins in a much better position. It’s a solidifying move. Nothing more.
Now, the Penguins have options. The rumors which swirled around the Penguins shopping for a defenseman and dealing one of their defensemen Monday were real. Very real. But, it didn’t come to fruition on Monday.
Going forward, the Penguins have the tools to look for hockey trades to upgrade individual positions. The Penguins have needs. They still need a bit more offense in their top-six, but they should be well set on the suppression side of the game.
If you’re a fantasy hockey player, Matt Murray should have a great season, next year. He will be well protected.