CAR free agents Guentzel Pesce Skjei

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes have big decisions to make this offseason with nine key players eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. 

But forwards Jake Guentzel, Teuvo Teravainen and defensemen Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo made it clear they would like to stay put.

“I loved my experience here,” Guentzel said Saturday. “It’s a great place to play. I don’t think you realize the behind the scenes, how good it is. The guys make it good too. We’re going to see what happens over the next little bit here.”

Guentzel, who played his first seven full NHL seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was traded to Carolina on March 7 for forward Michael Bunting, three prospects and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. He just completed the final season of a five-year, $30 million contract ($6 million average annual value) he signed with the Penguins.

Guenztel immediately provided scoring punch for the Hurricanes, scoring 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 25 regular-season games to help Carolina finish second in the Metropolitan Division at 52-23-7.  He added nine points (four goals, five assists) in 11 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Hurricanes, who felt they could win the Stanley Cup this season, lost the Eastern Conference Second Round to the New York Rangers in six games, the final loss coming at home on Thursday.

“This team for sure can win the Stanley Cup,” Guentzel said. “I think it’s right there. This puts you in a good spot to do that. I want to do that more than anything, and that’s all I care about. That definitely plays a factor into it. Hopefully you can kind of get some stability and be able to sign here long term.”

Teravainen is coming off a season with 53 points, including an NHL-career high 25 goals, in 76 games. Traded to Carolina by the Chicago Blackhawks on June 15, 2016, he’s played the past eight seasons with Carolina and just completed a five-year, $27 million contract ($5.4 million AAV).

“I’ve had such a good time here,” Teravainen said. “All these people and this team have been awesome. Everything is good, so hopefully I can stay. You never know. It’s a new situation for me right now.”

Pesce and Skjei, who made up Carolina's second defensive pairing, are each nine-year NHL veterans. Pesce, who was drafted by the Hurricanes in the third round (No. 66) of the 2013 NHL draft, just finished the final year of a six-year, $24.15 million contract ($4.025 million AAV) he signed on Aug. 1, 2017.

Skjei, a first-round (No. 28) pick by the Rangers in the 2012 NHL Draft, was traded to Carolina from the New York on Feb. 24, 2020. He signed a six-year contract with an AAV of $5.25 million with the Rangers on July 28, 2018.

“I just want a fair offer, probably, is the biggest thing,” Skjei said. “We will see what that looks like. I love it here. It’s an amazing place. Great players, great guys. It’s a fun place to be for sure.”

Pesce played the first two games of Carolina’s first-round series against the New York Islanders before missing the rest of the playoffs with a leg injury. He said on Saturday that he fractured his left fibula. He believes the initial injury happened on a blocked a shot in the first period of Game 2. He played into the second period before leaving the ice after making a turn in the defensive zone. He returned to practice before Game 6 against the Rangers and planned to play if Carolina had reached the Eastern Conference Final.

“I’m hopeful we can work something out here," Pesce said. "Everyone knows I love it here. I love the guys. I can speak for (Skjei) too. We both want to be back. It’s pretty obvious.”

Skjei emphasized the importance of remaining with his defensive partner. The two have played together for most of their four-plus seasons on the Hurricanes.

“I’d love to play with Pesce forever,” Skjei said. “He’s an unbelievable guy, an unbelievable player. We’re great friends. If we could stay together, that would be a huge bonus.”

DeAngelo is open to returning to Carolina as well. He signed a one-year, $1.675 million contract with the Hurricanes on July 24, 2023.

He had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 31 games in the regular season, and he replaced Pesce on the pairing with Skjei for the last nine games of the playoffs, getting two assists.

“More games would be the most important thing, but you’ve also got to earn it,” DeAngelo said. “This would always be an option because of the way I feel about [coach Rod Brind’Amour]. I told them my phone is going to be on all summer. If they call, it would be great. If they don’t, I totally understand too. The relationship I’ve had with him, even some tough times this year between us because I wasn’t happy not playing, but it was never anything personal. So as long as he’s here, it would be an option."

DeAngelo also played for the Hurricanes in 2021-22, when he scored 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 64 games.

The other pending free agents -- forwards Stefan Noesen, Jordan Martinook, defenseman Jalen Chatfield, and goalie Antti Raanta – will meet the media Sunday.

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