July 15th, 2024

Bolts, Leafs, Panthers make big moves before NHL free agency bell sounds


By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on July 1, 2024.

Carolina Hurricanes' Jake Guentzel (59) skates against the New York Islanders during the third period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 22, 2024. The Atlantic Division got down to business ahead of NHL free agency's opening bell.The Tampa Bay Lightning signed prized winger Jake Guentzel to a seven-year, US$63-million deal Monday - roughly three hours before players on expiring contracts went to market at 12 p.m. ET. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Karl B DeBlaker

The Atlantic Division got down to business ahead of NHL free agency’s opening bell.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed prized winger Jake Guentzel to a seven-year, US$63-million deal Monday – roughly three hours before players on expiring contracts went to market at 12 p.m. ET.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, locked up Chris Tanev to a six-year, $27-million pact that will see the shutdown defenceman play in his hometown.

Those moves bookended the Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers announcing winger Sam Reinhart had signed an eight-year extension worth a reported $69 million.

The Lightning acquired the rights to Guentzel, whose contract will carry an average annual value of $9 million, on Sunday from the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round pick at the 2025 draft.

Tampa cleared more than $11-million in salary cap space Saturday when they shipped defenceman Mikael Sergachev to the Utah Hockey Club and winger Tanner Jeannot to the Los Angeles Kings.

The 29-year-old Guentzel, who was dealt from the Pittsburgh Penguins to Carolina ahead of March’s trade deadline, had 30 goals and 77 points in 77 games last season. He added four goals and five assists in 11 playoff contests.

The signing could signal the end of the road in Tampa for captain Steven Stamkos, who is without a contract for next season.

Toronto jumped the queue to negotiate with Tanev when the Leafs sent a minor-league forward and a 2026 seventh-round pick to the Dallas Stars for his rights Saturday after they previously snagged him from the Calgary Flames in February before the trade deadline.

The 34-year-old undrafted blueliner, whose deal will average out at $4.5 million per season, had two goals and 19 points in 75 games in 2023-24.

His true value, however, comes at the other end of the rink in a shutdown role Toronto was desperate to fill.

The Leafs also got to work on their crease combination, extending goaltender Joseph Woll on a three-year, $10.98-million agreement that begins in 2025-26.

Reinhart, 28, is staying in South Florida after putting up a career-high 57 goals and 94 points in 2023-24. He scored nine more times and added six assists in 22 playoff contests.

The Edmonton Oilers, meanwhile, kept one of their depth players in the fold following the club’s run to the Cup final, re-signing winger Connor Brown to a one-year, $1-million extension.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

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