Chris Kunitz, who until Tuesday was an unrestricted free agent, will remain with the Blackhawks in 2019-20 — as a player-development adviser.
Instead of giving his playing career one more try, the 39-year-old forward has retired and joined the Hawks’ coaching staff. It’s hardly shocking news, considering that Kunitz was seen among the staff watching over the prospects at development camp two weeks ago.
Kunitz will be remembered most for his days with the Penguins, with whom he won Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2017. He also was part of the Ducks’ championship run in 2007.
Initially an undrafted free agent, Kunitz reached 40 points in 10 of his first 11 full seasons in the NHL and developed a reputation as one of the best complementary forwards in the league.
‘‘I feel very fortunate to have been a part of four amazing organizations over the last 15 years,’’ Kunitz said in a statement released Tuesday. ‘‘I’d like to sincerely thank the Anaheim Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Every one of these organizations was the ultimate example . . . on what true professionalism should be.’’
Kunitz was clearly on the back end of his career last season, his only one with the Hawks, but he made his veteran leadership felt. He was honored when he played his 1,000th career game in February and finished at 1,022.
Kunitz will help on the coaching side at both the NHL and American Hockey League levels. He’ll join a number of other recently retired players on the Hawks’ staff, including Brian Campbell.
‘‘While coaching him last year, I recognized what an asset he would be for our staff and the organization,’’ Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said in the statement. ‘‘I’m very pleased to have him a part of our coaching group and also use him as a development resource for our young players in Rockford.’’