Penguins’ Guentzel wants to stay in Pittsburgh: ‘I love this place so much’

Penguins' Guentzel wants to stay in Pittsburgh: 'I love this place so much'

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel could test the market as a free agent at the end of the 2023-24 campaign, but he’s made it abundantly clear that his heart is in the Steel City.

“I’ve pretty much grown up in Pittsburgh,” Guentzel said in an interview with The Athletic’s Josh Yohe. “I love this place so much. I really do. This is a great place, both for me and my family. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

He added, “I can’t even tell you how much I love it here. From playing with (Sidney Crosby), to the ownership, the people in this city, the team … This is where I want to be. For now, I’m just focusing on playing. We’ll see if it happens. I hope it does.”

Guentzel has been eligible to sign a new extension since July 1. He’s about to play out the final season of a five-year extension with a cap hit of $6 million, but he’ll be due for a substantial raise. The top-line winger has two 40-goal seasons under his belt, and his 197 tallies in 453 contests since his debut in 2016-17 are the second most on the team over that span, trailing only Crosby.

His production last season dipped below a point-per-game rate for the first time since 2018-19, but Guentzel was still vital to the Penguins’ offense, pacing the squad with 36 tallies in 78 outings.

As it stands, the Penguins have about $17.2 million in projected cap space in 2024-25 and a few other free agents on their books, including Jeff Carter and Alex Nedeljkovic, per CapFriendly.

Guentzel is the most important player out of that crop, but general manager Kyle Dubas has yet to engage in serious contract talks with the talented scorer as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery.

“I’ve got a great relationship with (Guentzel’s agent, Ben Hankinson), and the major priority right now has just been on Jake’s health,” Dubas said Monday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Seth Rorabaugh. “So, there’s really no real focus on anything other than the health portion of it.”

Guentzel underwent the procedure in early August and was initially given a 12-week recovery timeline, which would have kept him out for at least the first seven games of the season.

The 29-year-old is ahead of schedule, though, and is considered a game-time decision for the Penguins’ season opener Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It’s kind of remarkable what each day does for an injury like this,” he said, per Yohe. “I’m feeling really good.”

The Penguins selected Guentzel in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

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