Jake Guentzel signs with the Lightning hours before NHL free agency opens

FILE – Carolina Hurricanes’ Jake Guentzel (59) watches the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Raleigh, N.C., April 4, 2024. The Tampa Bay Lightning got a head start on free agency by acquiring the rights to high-scoring winger Guentzel. The Lightning sent a 2025 third-round draft pick to Carolina on Sunday, June 30. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)


NHL free agency begins Monday with high-producing recent Stanley Cup champions Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault among the top players available.

Hours after a rainy rally celebrating the first championship in franchise history, Florida beat the midnight buzzer to re-sign 57-goal scorer Sam Reinhart to an eight-year contract worth $69 million.

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, left, aims the puck for a goal as Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) attempts to defend during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Cross-state rival Tampa Bay beat the rush to have the chance to negotiate exclusively with Jake Guentzel over the weekend, then signed the point-a-game playoff player to a $63 million, seven-year deal. That is well worth the third-round pick the Lightning sent Carolina for Guentzel’s rights, especially after realizing they would be parting ways with Stamkos, their longtime captain who has been around since 2008.

Detroit on Sunday night kept Patrick Kane from ever hitting the open market by signing him to a $4 million contract with $2.5 million in additional incentives for next season.

FILE – Vegas Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault controls the puck in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars in Dallas, May 1, 2024. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be committed to free agents, including a strong crop of forwards led by longtime Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane and 2023 playoff MVP Marchessault. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Deals in Toronto for Chris Tanev and others around the league could be coming even before free agency opens at noon Eastern.