Penguins winger Jake Guentzel was open to beginning discussions regarding a contract extension back in the offseason, notes Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required). However, GM Jim Rutherford indicated at the time that his preference was to negotiate a new deal next summer. While that may have been disappointing at the time for Guentzel, it’s fair to suggest that this worked out quite well for him. The 24-year-old has 22 points through 26 games so far this season which puts him on pace for 69, a number that would vastly surpass his previous career best of 48. Although he’s still on his entry-level deal, Guentzel is eligible for salary arbitration next summer so he is well-positioned to land a substantial raise on his current $734K cap hit and almost assuredly more than if he signed an extension last summer.
Elsewhere around the league:
- The Jets could have a key defenseman back in their lineup on Friday. Postmedia’s Ken Wiebe notes that there’s a good chance Dustin Byfuglien will return after missing the last four games with a concussion. That would be a big boost to their back end as he leads all Winnipeg blueliners in scoring (17 points) while leading the team in playing time per game (24:24). Meanwhile, fellow rearguard Dmitry Kulikov could also return from his upper-body injury that he sustained early last month. His initial timeline for recovery was mid-December so he certainly appears to be ahead of schedule.
- Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy took contact in practice for the first time this week and could return as soon as Sunday, reports Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times. The veteran has missed the entire season since undergoing back surgery in September and while he hasn’t been a big point producer in the past, he’ll give them some extra depth on their back end and likely slot into a third pairing role. Chicago is currently carrying the maximum 23 players allowable on their roster so they will have to make a move over the next couple of days if they want him to play this weekend.