In July, when the free-agent frenzy started, the Pittsburgh Penguins big signing was forward Brandon Tanev. General Manager Jim Rutherford isn’t opposed to making a splash, which he did when giving a six-year contract to Tanev. Many had questioned the move solely because a player of his calibre usually isn’t given that much security. However, Tanev has been everything Rutherford’s team needed and more.
Brandon Tanev Bringing Everything to the Penguins
Tanev’s $3.5 million AAV wasn’t much of a concern to fans. It had been the length of the contract that seemed problematic.
The 28-year old forward so far has put together the best offensive season of his NHL career. He has 20 points in 43 games after 29 points in 82 games last year. Assuming he stays healthy, unlike just about every player on his team, Tanev should shatter that career-high.
On Monday night, Tanev scored the game-winning goal for the Penguins against the Vegas Golden Knights. Tanev took the puck around a Marc-Andre Fleury poke check and deposited it into the back of the net. It helped the Penguins to their 12th victory in 16 games.
No one is suggesting that Tanev is going to break out and score 60 points this season. He just isn’t that type of player. However, with the Penguins’ injuries mounting to unprecedented heights, Tanev is proving that you can plug him anywhere and he will give you his all.
Fortunately for the Penguins, Tanev has been a monster drawing penalties this season. He has drawn a team-high 17 penalties and only has taken five. His ferocious, straight-line, pesky game annoys opponents and baits them into penalties they shouldn’t have taken.
Ever since losing Carl Hagelin, the Penguins have been looking for a penalty-killing forward that can chip in occasionally on the score sheet. Tanev isn’t necessarily as fast as Hagelin, however, he can skate very well. Hagelin was a vital role player for the Penguins in their back-to-back Stanley Cup championship runs. Tanev certainly could follow in his footsteps.
Tanev’s Importance Can’t be Understated
43 games of solid production won’t be enough to make Tanev a folk hero in Pittsburgh. He will need to continue producing in whatever role he lands in once the Penguins finally get healthy.
The loss of Jake Guentzel for the season isn’t ideal for the Penguins. Rutherford likely will need a winger to replace his production, especially with Sidney Crosby likely to return from injury by the weekend. This isn’t to suggest that Brandon Tanev is capable of scoring at the rate of a top-six winger. But, when considering the types of players Crosby has thrived with in the past, using Tanev in that role, for now, can’t hurt. Crosby helped the likes of Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz find levels of their games no one else could’ve. Conor Sheary had some of his best NHL success with Crosby.
Tanev’s commitment to playing well on both sides of the puck as well as his straight-line speed certainly appeal to Crosby. Crosby has been forced to play a lot of time with Dominik Simon this season. Simon is a solid player but has shown a very extensive lack of finish. Tanev, on the other hand, seems to have really come into his own offensively.
Playoffs and Bottom-Six
If the Penguins choose to use Tanev exclusively in a bottom-six, secondary scoring type role, that wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Come playoff time, Tanev’s game is the kind that a team loves to have on their side. He’s responsible defensively with a will to be an annoyance for the other team’s players. If he can continue to score with some regularity, the Penguins have themselves a key player for this season and beyond.
Tanev’s play has quickly erased any thoughts that his contract would be a hindrance to the Penguins. Besides, even if in three or four years the Penguins want to get out from under it, they may be in the beginning stages of a rebuild as their core is starting to hit their mid-30’s anyway.
Jim Rutherford’s tenure as Penguins’ General Manager has brought its fair share of home run moves. So far, his signing of Brandon Tanev certainly falls within that category.