Connor Bedard and Jake Guentzel

Connor Bedard and Jake Guentzel


Connor Bedard, Chicago Blackhawks & Jake Guentzel, Carolina Hurricanes

With less than a month remaining before the start of NHL free agency, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman made one of his boldest predictions yet.

While discussing some of the underrated factors that influence decisions for free agents on the June 5 edition of the Jeff Marek Show, Friedman speculated that hotshot winger Jake Guentzel will sign with the Chicago Blackhawks when free agency opens July 1.

“I look at it this way,” Friedman said. “Jake Guentzel is a Midwest guy. Chicago is a Midwest location. Also, they do need to get players to play with the guard… and it just doesn’t seem insane to me.”

According to The Athletic’s Chris Johnston, Guentzel is the No. 2-ranked pending free agent this offseason. The winger is coming off his third consecutive 70-plus-point campaign after splitting the 2023-24 season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes.  A Stanley Cup champion in 2018 with Pittsburgh and native of Omaha, Neb., the 29-year-old winger has 227 goals, 264 assists and 491 points in his eight-year NHL career – including 38 goals in 69 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Guentzel Projected to Get Big Payday This Offseason

As one of the NHL’s top free-agent wingers, Guentzel carries a high market value – somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.6 million to $9.9 million annually over seven years, according to The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn.

“That’s a very pricey bet to make, especially for a 29-year-old winger, but it is one Guentzel should live up to,” Luszczyszyn writes. “He’s a savvy player who should age gracefully in his 30s. Pair him with an elite center and watch the pair sing.”

The Blackhawks, who are projected to have $33,790,000 in cap space for the upcoming season, could feasibly afford this price tag for Guentzel. They also have an elite center in 18-year-old phenom Connor Bedard.

Bedard was named a finalist this season for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top rookie. He led all NHL rookies with 22 goals and 61 points in 68 games during the 2023-24 season and tied for first with 39 assists. He also led all Blackhawks skaters in goals, assists and total points. Paired with a productive winger like Guentzel in Chicago next year, Bedard could continue to build upon his dominant rookie season.

Guentzel Unlikely to Re-Sign with Hurricanes: Insider

Any speculation about Guentzel’s future, of course, hinges on the assumption that he will not sign a contract extension with the Hurricanes on July 1. Carolina acquired Guentzel from Pittsburgh before the March 8 trade deadline, and he made a strong impression with 12 goals and 34 points in 28 games following the move.

In fact, Guentzel played so well that the Hurricanes have serious interest in signing him to a contract extension. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that, while this remains an option and talks between Carolina and Guentzel’s camp are still ongoing, the most likely scenario is that Guentzel remains unsigned and hits the free agency market on July 1.

“The one carrot the Hurricanes have is to go eight years on a contract,” LeBrun wrote on June 3.”Guentzel can only get seven on the open market. But whatever salary figures have been exchanged so far, the sense right now is that [Guentzel’s agent Ben] Hankinson most likely wants to hear from other teams as well on July 1. Again, without ruling out Carolina.”

Emma Lingan covers the NHL, MLB and sports betting for She has covered the NHL in multiple capacities since 2018, including as a senior content manager and beat reporter for the Nashville Predators and a team site editor for The Hockey News. More about Emma Lingan

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