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NHL to raise salary cap to $87.7 million ahead of Jake Guentzel extension

The $4.5 million increase could pave the way for Guentzel to stick around.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Looking for good news in the wake of the Penguins’ back-to-back extra-time losses to the Philadelphia Flyers?

The NHL has some for you. The league announced during Monday’s Board of Governors meeting that the 2024-25 salary cap is set to jump to $87.7 million, per ESPN’s Ryan S. Clark.

That’s a $4.5 million escalation from the $83.5 million cap this season, marking the league’s largest cap increase since the 2019-20 campaign, according to Clark.

That could be just enough to help the Penguins finally complete an extension for pending unrestricted free agent Jake Guentzel, who is in the last year of the five-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2018.

Kyle Dubas said at the beginning of this season that the Penguins had focused on Guentzel’s recovery from offseason ankle surgery rather than his extension this summer. From Pensburgh’s own Hooks Orpik in October:

There is no timeline or sense of urgency on Jake Guentzel’s contract to this point, all efforts from the player and team up to this point have been focused on Guentzel’s health and getting back to 100%. ... Dubas is open to talking with Guentzel’s agent Ben Hankinson throughout the season and cited their excellent relationship to make it sound like when it’s time to approach contract talks that the two will have that conversation without much worry that an agreement for both sides won’t be reached.

Guentzel, who recorded an assist during Monday night’s loss, is currently producing at what would be a 95-point clip were he playing an 82-game season. If he keeps it up that will be enough for his fourth point-per-game season in the last five years.

Especially in light of Rickard Rakell’s struggles, that consistency on the wing is looking more valuable than ever.

Luckily, the Winnipeg Jets showed us earlier this season just how quickly the status of a pending free agent can change. Just look at how rapidly the team ended months of uncertainty regarding Mark Scheifele’s future by agreeing to a seven-year, $59.5 million extension at the beginning of this season. From Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman after the news broke in October:

I was shocked at Scheifele, simply because it didn’t appear as if there was much momentum. ... There were basically zero contract talks in the summer; things didn’t accelerate until the last 10 days. It came together really quickly.

Scheifele is a consistent 20-goal scorer who put up a career-high 42 last season. His $8.5 million cap hit next season could be considered a good comparable for Guentzel’s future contract, which would mean a $2.5 million raise for the winger conveniently covered by the projected cap increase.

Another takeaway from the Scheifele extension is this: deals can happen very quickly, without many rumors of their progress leaking into hockey media beforehand. Who knows— something could already be in progress behind the scenes in Pittsburgh.