Jets appreciate value of Penguins’ Brandon Tanev
As Brandon Tanev left the ice after practice Monday in Cranberry, he had a captive audience that offered something he hasn’t received much since he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Winnipeg Jets, who had just arrived at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex for their own practice, jeered Tanev as he headed to the dressing room.
Tanev, a forechecking forward who spent his first four seasons in Winnipeg before signing with the Penguins in the offseason, still is popular with his former teammates.
“A good guy to have fun with,” said Jets forward Andrew Copp, a University of Michigan product. “We’ve talked a good amount during (training) camp. Phone calls, text conversations. He’s always the first guy, when Michigan is losing a football game, to be texting me to make sure I know.”
Considering Tanev’s style is abrasive, the Jets likely will know when he’s on the ice Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.
“It’ll be fun,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said. “He’s going to skate around, and he’s probably going to run into a few of us. It will be different kind of lining up against him having spent so much time with him the last couple of years, but I’m looking forward to it.”
“I stopped him all last year (in practice), so I don’t see why one game would change anything,” joked Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Tanev signed a six-year contract worth $21 million, the longest deal the Penguins have given to an unrestricted free agent. He was utilized in a prominent role in training camp as he skated with Sidney Crosby.
In the first two games of the regular season, Tanev skated on the second line with Evgeni Malkin before Malkin suffered a long-term injury Saturday.
“Seeing him get a shot with Crosby, and he had a shot with Malkin,” said Lowry, who centered Tanev on a third line last season. “I texted him that he maybe upgraded his centermen over the summer.”
Tanev has a secondary assist in two games, but his former teammates said his value goes beyond points. He had 14 goals and 15 assists last season.
“Selfishly, you want him on your team because he’s a great player, and he brings a lot to teams that you need to win,” Copp said. “But you saw the contract that he signed. It’s almost unprecedented for the kind of player that he is. That’s just a testament to how good he is at his job and what he brings on a day-to-day level. He’s the kind of person that you want in your room to build your team around.”
Said Jets coach Paul Maurice: “They’ve got a piece there that brings a level of speed that those two centermen can play with. They can find those holes. He’s going to get in on the forecheck, and the fans are going to love him. All the things that he did in Winnipeg, he’ll be able to do here. They’ve got a real unusual depth at center here in Pittsburgh, so he’s going to move up and down the lineup with them.”
Tanev seems eager to give his former teammates something to really boo in Tuesday’s game.
“There’s a lot of good friends out there,” Tanev said. “(On Tuesday), when the puck drops, there’s no friends on the ice. You play hard and just go out there and have fun.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .