Friday, April 8, 2011

Grant Jennings

Grant Jennings was a large, aggressive blueliner who lacked mobility to make him much more than an average NHL defenseman. But he was able to mature into a capable role player who twice would sip sweet victory from the Stanley Cup.

The Saskatchewan native was never drafted by an NHL team. Instead he signed a minor league contract in the Washington Capitals organization. He spent three years developing in the American Hockey League. By 1988 Grant made his NHL debut, and in the playoffs nonetheless.

Grant was moved in the off season to Hartford. He and tough right winger Ed Kastelic were traded to Hartford in exchange for Neil Sheehy and Mike Millar. It was a great move for Grant as he became an NHL regular. Jennings played a quiet role in Hartford for two and a half seasons. He relied on strong positional play and was at his best when he was using his size to his fullest advantage.

Part way through the 1990-91 season Jennings was involved in one of the most famous trades in hockey history. Grant is an often forgotten about throw-in in the Ron Francis/Ulf Samuelsson trade to Pittsburgh. The Whalers got John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski in return, but the trade was considered to be the final piece of the Penguins championship puzzle. Francis and Samuelsson played big roles in the Pens back to back championships in 1991 and 1992.

Grant played a quiet role on those championships too. He had to battle the likes of Gordie Roberts, Paul Stanton and Peter Taglianetti for the 5th, 6th and 7th defensemen positions and the accompanying playing time. Jennings was rotated in and out of the lineup during the playoffs as well as the regular season. He appeared in 22 of the Pens 45 playoff games in the two years that they won the Cup.

Jennings played in parts of 5 seasons with the Pens before being moved to Toronto late in the 1995 season. Grant was about to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Penguins wanted to get something in return for him before he could get away with nothing in return at all.

Jennings played 10 games with the Leafs and then tested the free agent market. He eventually settled on a contract with the Buffalo Sabres during training camp 1995. However injuries plagued Grant for the remainder of his career. He only got into 6 games with the Sabres before he disappeared to battle injury problems in the minor leagues until 1998 when he retired.

In 389 NHL games, Grant scored 14 times and added 43 helpers for 57 points. He accumulated 804 penalty minutes in that time as well. He appeared in 54 playoff games, scoring twice and picking up 3 points and 68 PIM, plus 2 Stanley Cup rings.

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