David Pagnotta of The NHL Network tweeted that he has heard that the Pittsburgh Penguins and winger Jake Guentzel have talked about a contract extension, but they are not close to an agreement. Pagnotta followed that up with another tweet adding that he has been told by sources that the two sides may shelve contract negotiations until after the season.
The 29-year-old is set to play out the final year of his five-year $30MM contract and will be due a big raise if he performs anywhere close to his historical averages. Guentzel is coming off back-to-back 35+ goal seasons and has averaged nearly a point a game since breaking into the league in November 2016. The knock-on Guentzel has always been that he puts up elite numbers because he plays with Sidney Crosby, but there has never been another player able to duplicate the kind of success Guentzel has had on Crosby’s line. Chris Kunitz was Crosby’s linemate for nearly a decade and posted just two seasons with more than 60 points, while Guentzel has topped 70 points three times in the last five years. Guentzel is sometimes the forgotten star in Pittsburgh playing behind Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and now Erik Karlsson. But, without the Omaha, Nebraska native in 2017, the Penguins probably don’t repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
The Penguins are in a bit of a curious spot this season as they are firmly committed to an older core of players but could find themselves with a ton of cap space next summer if they don’t sign any of their pending free agents. One might wonder if the Penguins are waiting to see if any impact free agents go to unrestricted free agency next summer before they decide whether to sign their own impact free agent.
From Guentzel’s perspective, he has earned the right to test the free agent market and might worry about the Penguins’ future when Crosby, Letang and Malkin retire, which could be sooner than later. Guentzel would likely fetch a seven- or eight-year deal. Given the ages of the aforementioned players, Guentzel’s final years in Pittsburgh could be on a rebuilding team if he elects to re-sign with the team long-term.