Dunlap: Tanev Deal Better Work For Rutherford’s Sake

This deal doesn't seem to add up perfectly

Colin Dunlap
July 01, 2019 - 5:33 pm
Winnipeg Jets forward Brandon Tanev

© Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

93.7 The Fan (Pittsburgh) -- Apparently Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford didn’t feel like he got enough criticism for inking Jack Johnson to the longest of long-term deals. 

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So Rutherford decided to double down. In a way, he did it again. Yeah, man, come to Pittsburgh and we will pay you for more than a half-decade! And pay you a lot!

That’s what happened as NHL free agency hit stride on Monday and Rutherford --- for some reason known to only him --- gave bottom-six forward Brandon Tanev a six-year deal. Tanev is 27 years old, is the definition of a working bee and his contract carries a $3.5 million average annual value. 

Related: Pens Sign Winger as NHL Free Agency Opens

That all doesn't seem to add up perfectly. 

I don’t have the strongest of strong takes about Tanev. In short, he seems like the kind of guy who could bump up and play the top two lines in a pinch if things get reshuffled due to poor play or injury. He also seems like the kind of player who could be akin to a Nick Bonino if he performs at an optimal level; that is to say a guy who will do anything to help your team win, kills penalties and is much more prone to play mistake-free hockey than ever show flashes of wow-that-was-pretty brilliance.

To be sure, the Penguins could use some more of that. You know, that whole responsibility thing. Will Tanev give the Penguins that night-in and night-out? I don’t know. 

What is certain is that some are questioning if you need to pay $3.5 million per season for a player of that ilk and/or why guys like that can’t be cultivated through the Penguins’ system, homegrown and then finally reach the NHL. 

If Tanev works out for the Penguins and fills that role --- even if it isn’t for the full term of his contract --- Rutherford will look like a genius for going out and getting a guy who thrived in Pittsburgh and folded into a team with guys who had more skill. Again, think Bonino; think a bit of Chris Kunitz even. 

But here’s the big catch with everything and why many are raising an eyebrow right now: This move done independently wouldn’t have shocked many or forced them to question things. On the surface, if it was just this move, some people would have disagreed with it but I don’t know if it would be met with some who are speaking so loudly against it. 

When you parlay this one with the Jack Johnson contract though … 

You see, that’s where people are skeptical. When fans look at the Penguins’ roster disposition and see that long term commitment to Johnson along with the big-time money he’s making and then go back and realize how bad of a season he had (they don’t need to be reminded) they start to scratch their heads. 

That’s why this Tanev deal better work out for Rutherford. And the organization better get returns from him in the first season. 

If not --- and it would be very fair --- people will loudly start to question if Rutherford still has it when it comes to identifying talent he should be giving long-term deals to. Yeah, GMJR, for your sake I'd think this one needs to work. ​

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