Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Guentzel, GM Found Smooth Path to Contract

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Guentzel, GM Found Smooth Path to Contract

Article excerpt

Had he wanted to, Jake Guentzel could've turned the screws. He and his agent, Ben Hankinson, could've attempted to juice every possible cent out of the Penguins, perhaps sitting out training camp or even the 2019-20 regular season.

Had he wanted to, Guentzel could've turned his contract situation into a referendum on arbitration rights or how young, talented and productive players deserve to be compensated.

Guentzel had no such interest.

Hankinson talked to Guentzel about the pros and cons about his contract situation, how it might make sense to wait and try to drive up his value as much as possible, but Guentzel wanted nothing of it.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, perhaps watching the NHL's trend of restricted free agents pushing to get paid, got more aggressive with his offer over Christmas, and a second push - actually on Christmas Eve - worked.

"As his agent, I wouldn't have minded," said Hankinson about making a statement with the five-year, $30 million deal Guentzel signed Thursday. "But I'm not lacing up the skates.

"Maybe he could have gotten a little more, but, at the same time, Jake is really happy and thankful for this opportunity and commitment."

Guentzel didn't want to become the next William Nylander, who signed an extension with Toronto Dec. 1, only after a bunch of fuss and back-and-forth.

Stuff that, evidently, didn't interest Guentzel in the least.

"It was all about Jake's respect for the organization and the team and kind of not wanting to go through that process," Hankinson said. "He loves it there."

Such talks might soon happen elsewhere, though, as many of the NHL's brightest young stars - Auston Matthews in Toronto, Winnipeg's Patrik Laine and Mikko Rantanen in Colorado - are on expiring entry-level deals.

Rutherford and Hankinson first broached the idea of an extension in late September, during the USHL Fall Classic. They met a couple of times, and Hankinson said Rutherford made a respectable offer - but not enough to finalize a deal.

"Jimmy got more serious, and we got it done," Hankinson said of contract talks that heated up Christmas Eve and basically finished Dec. 26.

"You don't like to see a player hold out," Rutherford said Friday after practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. "You want them in the start of camp. You want them to be happy and comfortable.

"I think with this player, getting him done at this point in time, he knows where he's going to be, he loves it in Pittsburgh, he wants to be with the Penguins.

"To know he's going to be here for the next number of years, it's important. …

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