Approaching 39, Blackhawks’ Chris Kunitz believes he still has more to offer
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Blackhawks left wing Chris Kunitz has considered hanging up his skates and stepping away from hockey.
“Yeah, it crosses your mind more and more,” said Kunitz, who has three children under the age of 10.
But Kunitz believes he has more to offer as he approaches his 39th birthday Sept. 26.
Last season, Kunitz played in all 82 games with the Lightning. He scored 13 goals and posted 29 points.
Kunitz admitted he’s not the player he was when he was in his 20s. But he has adapted and prolonged his career by changing his offseason regimen to focus more on skating. He signed a one-year deal worth $1 million in July.
“Everyone talks about speed, pace of play, the backchecking and forechecking,” Kunitz said Saturday. “That’s the stuff you try to keep up with.”
The Hawks see the potential of having Kunitz in the locker room. Coach Joel Quenneville believes Kunitz — a four-time Stanley Cup champion who won once with the Ducks (2007) and three times with the Penguins (2009, 2016 and 2017) — could be a valuable resource for the Hawks’ youthful roster.
Kunitz, who has six 20-goal seasons (most recently in the 2013-14 season), also adds depth. And the Hawks have the luxury of putting him on their top lines if needed.
Kunitz doesn’t mind where the Hawks play him, he just wants to be on the ice.
“I still have that want and hunger to compete,” Kunitz said. “You take it one year at a time, you don’t take anything for granted.
“Right now, I have to go and earn a spot on this team and try to be in the lineup every night.”
Young players impress
During the scrimmage at the United Center, several young players impressed Quenneville, including forwards Dylan Sikura (two goals) and Victor Ejdsell.
“Dylan had a nice game,” Quenneville said. “He had some good pace to his game, looked a little quicker than we’ve seen. I think one of the things with him is his effectiveness with the puck, and play recognition is a strength.”
Ejdsell had two assists, including one to Sikura.
“As the game progressed, [Ejdsell] got going there,” Quenneville said. “I think with his assets, which is shooting and [playing] with the puck, having more pace to his game can complement him.”
Sikura and Ejdsell had brief call-ups late last season. Sikura, who ended his college career with Northeastern after the Huskies lost to Michigan in the NCAA regional semifinals, had three points in five games. Ejdsell had one point in six games.
Ready to go
Quenneville saw some benefit to the Hawks’ longer offseason. After physicals Thursday, he said the players appear to be in better shape than previous seasons.
“As an organization, from the tests, we feel this is probably the best fit group we’ve had across the board,” he said.