Lightning trade for Jake Guentzel's rights, send 3rd-rounder to Hurricanes

The Tampa Bay Lightning got a jumpstart on free agency Sunday by acquiring Jake Guentzel’s rights from the Carolina Hurricanes less than 24 hours before the winger is set to hit the open market.

The fact that they sent a 2025 third-round pick back to Carolina to gain an early negotiating window is a pretty good indication that the Lightning are confident they’ll be able to reach an agreement with him on a contract.

Guentzel was one of the top names available in this year’s free-agent class — second on The Athletic’s big board.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner scored 30 goals and 77 points in 67 games in 2023-24, splitting the season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes.

Carolina had hoped to keep Guentzel, offering him an eight-year deal worth $64 million earlier this week, but elected to move on when he didn’t jump at that offer. He can sign for a maximum of seven years with Tampa Bay because he wasn’t on the Lightning’s reserve list at the trade deadline.

If the Lightning are successful in getting Guentzel signed, it will continue a pretty significant transformation of the team’s roster. On Saturday, general manager Julian BriseBois made two cap-clearing moves, sending defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Utah and forward Tanner Jeannot to the Los Angeles Kings while getting defenseman JJ Moser, prospect Conor Geekie and draft picks back in return.

BriseBois also announced that longtime captain Steven Stamkos would hit the free-agent market Monday, signaling the end of an era for the face of the franchise, who was drafted No. 1 by the Lightning in 2008.

Guentzel would give Tampa another top-six forward option to soak up some of the minutes and offense walking out the door with Stamkos.

(Photo of Jake Guentzel: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

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