The Pittsburgh Penguins signed forward Jake Guentzel to a five-year contract extension on Thursday. The deal will pay Guenztel an even $30-million over the five years and keeps him locked up through the 2023-24 season. The deal also carries a modified no-trade clause in its final two years.
Guentzel proved he could hang in Pittsburgh’s top-six last season when he notched 22 goals and 26 assists over a full 82 games. The 24-year-old is now in the midst of a breakout season, already racking up 15 goals and 18 assists through 37 games.
Guentzel can thank Sidney Crosby for his new, $30-million contract. Guentzel has already played over 450 minutes of 5v5 ice time with Crosby this season, compared to just 85 minutes without him. In defense of Guentzel and the Penguins’ decision to lock him up long-term, he and Crosby have been by far the Penguins’ most effective players this season. Pittsburgh is averaging 31 scoring chances per 60 when the two of them are on the ice together at 5v5 while surrendering just 22 scoring chances to the opposition. They boast a 58.27 CF% and an absurd 71.15 GF% together at 5v5 this season.
He couldn’t have asked for a better spot to land in, but Guentzel’s transition from an obscure, third-round pick in 2013 to a $30-million man just five years later is nothing short of remarkable. Perhaps most impressive is his track record in the playoffs. Guentzel went off for 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games in last years’ playoffs. As a rookie, he led the NHL with 13 playoff goals during the Penguins’ 2017 Stanley Cup run. He has 23 goals and 19 assists in 37 career playoff games. Given the recent struggles of Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, Guentzel’s breakout couldn’t come at a better time for Pittsburgh. Following last night’s 5-2 win over the Red Wings, the Penguins now sit four points clear of the Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan division.