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Lightning acquire Guentzel's right from Hurricanes


The Tampa Bay Lightning got a head start on free agency by acquiring the rights to high-scoring winger Jake Guentzel on Sunday.

The Lightning sent a 2025 third-round draft pick to the Carolina Hurricanes. The move allows the Lightning to sign Guentzel before he hits the open market on Monday.

He is coming off scoring 30 goals this past season for the Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, his fourth time reaching that mark in an eight-year career that has included him getting to 40 twice. Guentzel, who turns 30 in October, won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2017 and is nearly a point-a-game playoff performer in the NHL.

That means everything to the Lightning, who won it all back to back in 2020 and ‘21, reached the final in ’22 and want to keep their contending window open as long as possible. To do so, general manager Julien BriseBois and his staff plotted to shift resources from a strong left side on defense to the forward group.

This is all part of that process. Trading defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Utah and depth forward Tanner Jeannot to Los Angeles on Saturday cleared more than $11 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons.

“We have this cap space (and) we can allocate it in different ways by either getting volume or quality,” BriseBois said Saturday. “Now is that one player getting most of that cap space? Is it two players splitting it up? Three players splitting it up? It’s too early to tell at this point.”

Guentzel should take up a nice chunk of it, with some left over for the Lightning to sign another free agent, while also signing cornerstone defenseman Victor Hedman to a long-term contract extension.

Where that money will not be going, at least not right away, is toward re-signing Steven Stamkos, the longtime captain and face of the franchise who is expected to test free agency. BriseBois and Stamkos' agent, Don Meehan, confirmed Saturday their stances on reaching an agreement on a new contract had not changed.

“Steven’s earned the right to test free agency,” BriseBois said. “I didn’t go to him last season to get a deal done. I did go to him quickly after this season, and I was taking a risk by doing that that we may end up here, and now here we are.”

Tampa Bay became the second team to acquire the rights to a pending free agent, after Toronto sent a late pick in the 2026 draft to Dallas for the ability to negotiate exclusively with 34-year-old defenseman Chris Tanev.

“He’s just an elite defensive player,” Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving said of Tanev, whom he previously signed when running the Calgary Flames. “Listen, I know the age he’s at, but I think even in the last year he’s shown he’s one of the top shutdown defensemen, one of the top defensive players in the league.”

Buyouts initiated Sunday also will clear cap space.

The Buffalo Sabres finalized a buyout of forward Jeff Skinner's contract, ending the tenure of the highest-paid player on their roster. GM Kevyn Adams was unable to trade Skinner, who with a no-movement clause had full control over where he went.

Edmonton, which lost to Florida in seven games in the final, put goaltender Jack Campbell on unconditional waivers to buy out the rest of his contract. The $25 million, five-year deal the Oilers signed him to in 2022 was a bust, with Campbell being sent to the minors this past season.

A couple of defensemen were also on buyout waivers Sunday: Winnipeg's Nate Schmidt and Columbus' Adam Boqvist. Brother Jesper Boqvist, formerly under contract with Boston, was among the players who also will become free agents after not receiving a qualifying offer, a list that includes Buffalo's Jacob Bryson and San Jose's Filip Zadina.

Also not qualified were the four NHL players charged with sexual assault in the case involving members of Canada's 2018 world junior team: Philadelphia's Carter Hart, New Jersey's Michael McLeod and Cal Foote and Calgary's Dillon Dube. That was expected after the league did not give those players' teams any special exemption given the ongoing legal matter in London, Ontario.