The two sides came to terms on a three-year contract extension, which will carry an annual average value of $3.85 million against the salary cap until the completion of the 2016-17 season. Kunitz was entering the final-year of a two-year, $7.45 million contract in 2013-14 and would have become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The extension will give the 33-year-old forward an annual raise of $125,000 from his last deal.
Kunitz has found a role on the wing of superstar center Sidney Crosby and collected 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in 2013, which is the third-highest total in his career despite the truncated 48-game schedule.
The interesting component to this extension is how it impacts the Penguins plans moving forward. The club has seven players eligible for unrestricted free agency come July 5, in addition to attempting to sign defenseman Kris Letang to a long-term extension.
Reports have indicated that manager Ray Shero is hesitant to sign players over the age of 30 to deals with three-or-more years of term. Forward Pascal Dupuis is expected to be looking for a deal similar to the one Kunitz received and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Given that Kunitz has one-year remaining on his current contract, his signing is effectively a four-year deal. Considering Dupuis is 34-years-old, some have questioned whether Shero will want to keep two players of that age on the payroll that deep into their careers. The same could be true of forward Matt Cooke who is also 34-years-old.
Whether the extension of Kunitz has marked the end of their tenure with the club remains to be seen.