NHL trade grades: Lightning sign Jake Guentzel after deal with Hurricanes

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning rolled the dice 24 hours before the start of NHL free agency when they traded a third-round pick in the 2025 draft to the Carolina Hurricanes for the negotiating rights to pending unrestricted free agent forward Jake Guentzel.

The move worked out when the Lightning signed Guentzel to a seven-year, $63 million contract Monday morning before he hit the open market.


It was reported by Elliotte Friedman on June 28 that the Hurricanes met Guentzel’s ask of an eight-year, $64 million contract, but he turned the deal down. Carolina quickly pivoted to get something for a player they were about to lose.

Related: 2024 NHL free agency: Jake Guentzel among big-time stars signed before frenzy begins

Grading Lightning-Hurricanes trade involving Jake Guentzel

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s report card time. Which team won the trade? Let’s take a look.

Carolina Hurricanes: B+

Out of context, a 2025 third-rounder for Jake Guentzel would make any Hurricanes fan nauseous.

However, it became an extremely difficult situation for the Canes front office after meeting all of Guentzel’s wishes, just for him to shoot them down less than a day before July 1.

“Obviously things just didn’t work out in Carolina, then I heard Tampa might be trading for my rights and obviously I got really excited because everyone hears how good of a team and how good of a spot this is,” Guentzel said after signing with the Lightning.

As Dolly Parton once said, “What do you do, what do you say, when you know they want to leave as bad as you want them to stay?”

Well, new Hurricanes general manager Eric Tulsky was sure to not leave empty handed. 

Knowing that the Vancouver Canucks and Lightning were frothing at the mouth for a chance to nab Guentzel, Tulsky masterfully squeezed a decent draft pick out of the Lightning just for the opportunity to negotiate with Guentzel early after realizing that the Hurricanes had no shot with him.

A third-rounder is nothing to scoff at. Guentzel himself was a third-round choice by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.

Other legendary names like Mark Messier, Nicklas Lindstrom and Pat Verbeek were all hidden gems in the third round.

Good on the Hurricanes making the best out of an unfortunate situation.

Of course, in the end, they were unable to keep a player they badly wanted.

Tampa Bay Lightning: B+

Guentzel is a good get for the Lightning, who remain a Stanley Cup contender even after losing some big pieces.

The 29-year-old forward was among the most sought after players in free agency, falling in the same elite category as players like Sam Reinhart, Jonathan Marchessault and Steven Stamkos, yes, the player he will, in essence, replace in Tampa Bay.

Stamkos pivoted to sign a four-year, $32 million contract with the Nashville Predators, on a big day they also snagged Marchessault and defenseman Brady Skjei. 

With the departure of Stamkos, the Lightning went for a complete retool this offseason in order to maintain a roster whose Stanley Cup window has been on the verge of expiring, while also tending to their minimal cap space.

The process began in late May with the acquisition of veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Predators in exchange for two draft picks. 

That was followed by the recent defensemen swap of Mikhail Sergachev to Utah for J.J. Moser, along with center Conor Geekie and two draft picks.

That move was massive for Tampa Bay’s cap space since Utah took on Sergachev’s $8.6 million hit, helping free up the dollars for the Guentzel acquisition.

With Guentzel on contract until age 36, the Lightning are hoping that he’ll continue his dominant play as a forceful forechecker and elite scorer on the wing for years to come after notching 77 points in the 2023-24 season.

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