With the trade deadline approaching and everyone scrambling about who can be sent where, let’s take some time to talk about Chris Kunitz. Kunitz is a 15 year veteran of the league with quite a bit under his belt, and coming up in July Kunitz will be up for free agency once more so the question is will he sign somewhere else or is he going to hang up the skates?
Kunitz, a left winger, attended Ferris State University in Michigan, where he shined bright for the Bulldogs. In his four years there Kunitz scored 99 goals and 76 assists in 152 games. Kunitz went undrafted and signed with the Anaheim Ducks (then the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) on April 1st, 2003.
Kunitz never really found his home with the Ducks. He spent the better part of 3 seasons (two full ones) in the AHL. As a Duck, Kunitz played in 90 games over 3 seasons (two of these games were as an Atlanta Thrasher, Kunitz jokes that he doesn’t count them) collecting 41 points. In 2006-07 Kunitz scored 25-goals and helped his team win the Stanley Cup.
Kunitz’s move to the Penguins was a game changer. With the Penguins, Kunitz found his place, on the top line and ended the remaining 20 games with 7 goals and 18 points. The team pushed into playoffs and Kunitz helped his new team lift the Cup.
Kunitz became a cornerstone for the Penguin’s organization. Beloved by the city of Pittsburgh, Kunitz became one of the faces of the already star-studded organization. Kunitz helped lead the team to another 2, back-to-back Cups in both 2016 and 2017. In his 9 seasons with the Penguins, Kunitz played in 569 games, scoring 169 goals and giving 219 assists (also his +/- is +126).
On July 1st, 2017, Kunitz, as an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In Tampa, Kunitz played in all 82 games, collecting 13 goals and 16 assists.
Kunitz’s next free agency signing was the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1st, 2018. That leads up to where we are…
Kunitz has played 29 games (of 51) this season, with 1 goal, 2 assists, and a rating of -10. Kunitz was scratched more often than not and it’s not necessarily his fault. The Hawks are in a weird limbo state and Kunitz is one of the many players caught in the middle of it. It’s highly unlikely that the Hawks will resign him in July and it’s been made known that they even have him on the table for trades and for Kunitz, that’s not a bad thing.
It leaves you to wonder if Kunitz will retire now or move onto another team. Or will Kunitz “pull a Sharpie”? Allow me to explain.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Kunitz were to get traded to or resign with the Pittsburgh Penguins and retire either at the end of this season or next year. Patrick Sharp resigned with the Blackhawks in 2017 just so he could “come home” and retire as a Blackhawk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kunitz wants to do the same. He thrived with the Penguins, won 3 Cups there, made lifelong friends, and it makes sense that he might want to retire as a Penguin.
Kunitz could go another way and retire at the end of this season. His family enjoys living as Chicago, seeing as they’re closer to family and just enjoy the city as a whole.
And regardless of speculations that we can throw around all day long, Kunitz has made no comment about what his plans are beyond this season. For a player who has built himself up, become an inspiring story, Kunitz has had an amazing career and who knows if it’s done just yet.
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