2024 NHL free agency: Jake Guentzel among big names signed before market opens

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
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When NHL free agency kicked off Monday, several of the biggest potential unrestricted free agents were no longer available.

Forwards Sam Reinhart, Jake Guentzel, Patrick Kane and Matt Duchene, and defenseman Chris Tanev signed with the teams that held their rights before hitting the open market.

Reinhart agreed to an eight-year contract with the Florida Panthers before the midnight cutoff for eight-year contracts on Sunday, keeping the 57-goal scorer in South Florida long term. It was not unexpected that Reinhart re-upped with the Panthers right after winning the Stanley Cup since there was little chatter of where else he might sign.

The 28-year-old will get $69 million in his new deal.

Guentzel signed a seven-year contract worth $9 million annually with the Tampa Bay Lightning, putting pen to paper the morning after his signing rights were acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.

The 29-year-old would have been the most sought-after player in free agency but bypassed a chance at hitting the open market when the Lightning’s offer reached $9 million annually. The Hurricanes reportedly had offered him an eight-year, $64 million contract, $8 million annually, but it wasn’t enough for Guentzel.

Related: 2024 NHL Draft: 1st-round highlights include Celine Dion, Macklin Celebrini

Patrick Kane, Chris Tanev among NHL free agents that didn’t reach open market

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Detroit Red Wings
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If it wasn’t enough that the two top UFA forwards didn’t reach the open market, then Patrick Kane and Matt Duchene re-upped on one-year deals with their respective clubs, taking two more quality options off the board.

Kane returned to the Detroit Red Wings following a promising bounce-back season when he posted 20 goals and 47 points in 50 games after returning from hip surgery. Duchene decided to stay with the Dallas Stars, who first signed the 33-year-old after he was bought out by the Nashville Predators last summer. Duchene found success on a Dallas team that paced the Western Conference with 113 points and was a valuable 65-point scorer.

One of the best defensemen set to become an unrestricted free agent is also off the table. Chris Tanev signed a six-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who acquired his signing rights on Sunday in a trade with the Stars.

With all of those moves official, some of the biggest names are already locked up before the true frenzy can begin.

And that’s not all. Although none of these can be official until noon, rumors link defensemen Brett Pesce to the New Jersey Devils and Brandon Montour to the Seattle Kraken, while winger Tyler Bertuzzi is expected to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks and Tyler Toffoli with the San Jose Sharks.

That leaves Steven Stamkos as the biggest available star in NHL free agency.

The pressure will be on for teams that need to make a major move as rumors heat up and top targets put pen to paper.

It’s an exciting free agent class and one that’s brought fourth a lot of action well before the market actually opened.

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