Several notable NHL forwards have one year remaining on their current contracts. They became eligible for extensions on July 1, and some of them should see new contracts this summer.
Earlier in the summer, the focus points of the NHL offseason were the 2023 NHL Draft and free agency. Now that the free agent market has been open for a few weeks, NHL news has been slower, although there are still free agent signings and trades happening.
An area of focus for the later days of summer will be early extensions for some players who are set to become restricted free agents or unrestricted free agents in the 2024 offseason. There’s not as much of a rush to get these deals done, so they often take a backseat to other offseason moves despite next offseason’s UFAs and RFAs being eligible for an extension as of July 1.
NHL Rumors: Contract extensions incoming?
Sometimes, teams like to lock a player up for the future a year early. This might be to avoid a player becoming a UFA next year, to nail a player down before their value goes up, or to eat into some of an RFA’s potential UFA years.
Here are five NHL forwards a year out from free agency ranked in order of how likely they are to sign early extensions this summer.
Forwards most likely to sign early extensions: 5. Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel is anticipated to hit unrestricted free agency in the 2024 offseason. The Penguins are likely to lock him up this summer to avoid him becoming a UFA next year. No deal is in the works quite yet, but it should be on the horizon. The Penguins narrowly missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, and they’re at the end of a window to complete, so it’ll be interesting to see how the roster looks next season.
The Penguins view the 28-year-old playmaker as a core player in their organization. Guentzel sees a lot of time on Sidney Crosby’s wing. He scored 36 goals in 2022-23, just below his 40-goal feat in 2021-22.
Much like other NHL teams, the Penguins have been busy with other more time-sensitive moves, so an early extension for a player with a year left on his contract hasn’t been the top priority. The Penguins have been chasing Erik Karlsson, and it is reportedly now between them and the Carolina Hurricanes for the San Jose Sharks defenseman.
In The Athletic (subscription required), Josh Yohe said that no talks with Guentzel’s camp had taken place yet, but he expressed, “I’d be surprised if a deal doesn’t get done at some point in the next few months.” He also noted that he believes Guentzel wants to remain in Pittsburgh. A Guentzel extension might not happen immediately, but it sounds like it is likely to happen before puck drop this fall.