Analysis: How Tanev can live up to this deal ☕


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Brandon Tanev. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

CRANBERRY, Pa. — There is a lot for the Penguins to like about Brandon Tanev, the free-agent right winger they signed this afternoon.

Start with his tenacity and commitment all over the ice, how he embodies the "hard to play against" credo the Penguins have emphasized so much this offseason.

The way he plays bigger than his 6 foot, 180-pound frame suggests he could be expected to please Jim Rutherford and the coaching staff, too. After all, Tanev didn't allow his relatively modest size to prevent him from ranking third in the NHL with 278 hits last season.

Tanev's prowess as a penalty-killer is a plus, too. He logged more shorthanded time than any Winnipeg forward except Adam Lowry in 2018-19, which is part of the reason he blocked more shots (81) than all but two other NHL forwards last season.

Clearly, Tanev is the prototype of what the Penguins were hoping to add when the free agency market opened this morning.

The issue now is whether he will be able to live up to the generous terms -- six years, with an annual salary-cap hit of $3.5 million -- Rutherford offered to lure him here.

After all, Tanev, 27, is coming off a career-best offensive year, but his stats -- 14 goals and 15 assists in 80 games -- are pretty ordinary, although it would be folly to measure his value to a team solely by those numbers.

Still, even though Rutherford said, "we feel he can move up and down the lineup a little bit," there's little reason to believe Tanev is a threat to move into a top-six role this fall.

Nonetheless, he seems like a perfect fit for a hole in the Penguins' lineup, which means Tanev had all the leverage when the Penguins expressed interest in signing him. That translated to a contract whose value and length caused eyebrows to arch all across North America.

"It's the way things work (with free agency) on July 1," Rutherford said. "You either give the player close to what he wants, or you don't get the player. We felt so strongly about Tanev that we were willing to go as far as we had to go to make sure we got him. ... Quite frankly, with Tanev's age, the way he takes care of himself, the way he skates, I don't have an issue with the term."

Tanev, who made $1.15 million on a one-year contract in Winnipeg last season, described himself as "a very physical, fast and tenacious player," and said he doesn't feel any particular pressure to contribute in different ways to justify his deal.

"There's a great opportunity to step in and play a certain role in this organization's lineup," Tanev said. "I'm looking forward to the role, and the game I bring to this team. That being said, I'll look to expand other parts of my game, but continue to play the game that makes me successful."

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