Penguins Prediction Rewind: Jake Guentzel’s contract looks like bargain after 40-goal season | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins Prediction Rewind: Jake Guentzel’s contract looks like bargain after 40-goal season

Jonathan Bombulie
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Jake Guentzel beats Capitals goaltener Braden Holtby in the second period Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.

Last summer, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie made a series of predictions leading up to the start of the 2018-19 season. Some were OK. Some were hilariously off the mark. In this series, Bombulie will explain what he was thinking and where his logic went off course.

THE QUESTION

Jake Guentzel is playing on the final year of his entry level deal. What will his next contract look like?

MULTIPLE CHOICE

A. Short-term bridge deal

B. Long-term, average salary $5.75 million or less

C. Long-term, average salary of more than $5.75 million

THE PREDICTION

C. Long-term, average salary of more than $5.75 million

THE RIGHT ANSWER

C. Long-term, average salary of more than $5.75 million

THE RATIONALE

• Coming off a remarkable playoff performance in 2018, it was becoming clear Guentzel was a future star who had great chemistry with Sidney Crosby and a proven track record as a postseason performer. Those factors meant his next deal would look something like the one Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau got, which was six years with a $6.75 million salary.

• If Guentzel had another 22-goal season like he did in 2017-18, perhaps the Penguins could catch a break and get him on a deal comparable to Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz and Washington’s Tom Wilson, who have salaries around $5 million.

• A bridge deal was always highly unlikely because they’ve largely fallen out of favor in the NHL and wouldn’t benefit Guentzel.

READER REACTION

A sample of Facebook comments:

• “Jake is great, but is he great without Crosby? Except for a brief and unimpressive tryout at center last season, circumstances haven’t allowed him to prove he’s great in his own right. Pens have to be wary of signing a player to a long-term contract who will no longer be productive once age slows Crosby.”

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

• Guentzel jumped out to another strong start to the season, posting 15 goals and 33 points in his first 36 games, before agreeing to a five-year contract extension with an annual salary of $6 million in late December.

• By the end of the season, the deal looked like a bargain. Guentzel was one of 13 NHL players to crack the 40-goal mark. He was third in the league in even-strength goals with 33, tied with Alex Ovechkin.

THE FLAWS IN THE LOGIC

• While this prediction was the best one of the series so far, pretty close to being right on the money, there were some flaws in the logic that led to it. First and foremost, Guentzel didn’t get more than the Niederreiters and Hertls of the world because of the inevitable inflation of NHL salaries. He got more because he’s well on his way toward being considered one of the top goal scorers in the world.

• There were also some lingering doubts about Guentzel at this time last year. Most notably, there was a sentiment that he was a big-game scorer, as his playoff history showed, but he might not be hearty or consistent enough to thrive over a long, 82-game season. Some also wondered if he was simply a product of playing on Crosby’s line. Those doubts have largely been erased.

LESSONS LEARNED

• When it comes to predicting contracts, teams don’t usually get creative with their true top-tier talents. An unrestricted free agent might get an unpredictably long or lucrative deal because of the nature of a competitive market. A fringe player might get what the team can afford to give him under the cap. When it comes to key players, teams generally look at comparable contracts and keep it simple.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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