NHL rumors: Jake Guentzel to hit free agency, but there’s a Hurricanes silver lining

Barring a last minute deal with the Hurricanes, Jake Guentzel will hit the open market in July.

Jake Guentzel between NHL and Carolina Hurricanes logos

Although the Stanley Cup Final has yet to commence, 30 NHL teams are gearing up for a fast-approaching offseason that is sure to bring out some fireworks. NHL free agency begins in less than a month and one of the top names potentially hitting the open market is Carolina Hurricanes forward Jake Guentzel.

It’s not too often a player with multiple 40-goal seasons becomes available via free agency, but it appears that Guentzel is heading toward that. NHL insider Pierre LeBrun says although there is mutual interest in Guentzel’s return to Carolina, the 29-year-old will test the free agency waters.

“..it very much sounds as though the most likely outcome at this stage is Guentzel going to the July 1 market while at the same time keeping Carolina as an option,” LeBrun said.

The Hurricanes acquired Guentzel via trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins in March. He instantly made an impact for Carolina, recording 25 points in 17 regular season games with the Canes. He closed the season with 13 points in his final eight games.

Although the playoffs were short-lived as Carolina fell to the New York Rangers in the second round, Guentzel contributed four goals and five assists across 11 games.

Overall in 2023-24, Guentzel scored 30 goals and added a career-high 47 assists despite missing 15 games with an injury. It marked the fourth time in the last five seasons that Guentzel averaged more than a point per game.

Guentzel will turn 30 in October. He’s recorded 491 points in 520 regular season games across his eight-year career. He also has 67 points in 69 career NHL playoff games.

Which teams could be interested in Guentzel?

Carolina Hurricanes center Jake Guentzel (59) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Behind Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, Guentzel is rated as the second-best impending unrestricted free agent by most outlets. That means plenty of franchises will be lining up for his services with the Hurricanes potentially holding the slightest of advantages.

As LeBrun points out, Carolina can offer Guentzel an eight-year contract while the other 31 teams can only go as high as seven years. That extra year may not mean much for Guentzel and perhaps he doesn’t even get an offer of that length from anyone, but the Hurricanes have that option that no other team franchise can compete with.

The Penguins don’t seem to be a legitimate option after how they handled Guentzel’s final months with the team. The winger was always fond of playing in Pittsburgh and at the very least would have entertained offers to remain there long-term. Pittsburgh reportedly never made a serious attempt to retain Guentzel or engage in contract extension talks with him before shipping him to Carolina.

The Vegas Golden Knights always seem to be in on top-end talent and could throw an offer Guentzel’s way. Vegas might have an ideal opening for Guenztel if it can’t re-sign 2023 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault.

After making a run to the playoffs this season, the Nashville Predators have some cap space to work with and would be an intriguing destination for Guentzel. He’s likely going to command at least $8.5 million in average salary and the Predators are one of the few contending teams who can easily hit that number.

Other teams that are possible landing spots for Guentzel include the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. With free agency set to begin on July 1, we could know who Jake Guentzel’s next team is in less than a month.

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