Hankinson: Kunitz is ‘ultimate warrior player’

Chris Kunitz’s NHL career is winding down, but the fire to win still burns intensely for the gritty veteran winger.

Kunitz, 38, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks July 1 on the opening day of free agency.

His agent, Ben Hankinson, shared a few interesting tidbits during a July 8 appearance on Minneapolis/St. Paul’s KFAN with The Athletic’s Michael Russo.  

The conversation had been focused on another Hankinson client, Patrick Maroon, and the agent was asked about players opting to perhaps go to a team with a better chance of vying for the Stanley Cup versus the importance of money in the contract.  

“Funny you say that because that’s what it’s all about for McDonagh, and that’s what it’s all about for the ultimate warrior player I have, this Chris Kunitz,” began Hankinson. “He’s won four Cups, won a gold medal. The greatest story because he was never drafted, didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the age of 27, and he’s now at 966 NHL games with four Cups.

“So he had an opportunity in Tampa last year. He did not want to go there because of the weather, which is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Because he said, ‘It’s not a hockey culture. I like playing in hockey cities, hockey markets.’ And it’s actually kind of a good hockey market down there because Yzerman has done a good job. But yeah, he’s all about winning a Cup.

“He had a team offer him a great deal this summer… it’s a team in Canada out West that wanted to sign him that’s been a good team off and on. They’ve gone through their struggles. But he’s like, ‘No, I don’t like their defensemen. They’re never going to win with those defensemen.’

“So for him, it’s all about winning.”  

Kunitz spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Tampa Bay Lightning on a one-year, $3 million AAV pact.