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Bargains in Murray, Guentzel could extend Penguins’ contending window

Penguins' Jake Guentzel talks to Pierre McGuire about the positivity and resiliency displayed by the Penguins to grind out a Game 1 win.

Jake Guentzel and Matt Murray played big roles in the Pittsburgh Penguins winning (some might say “stealing”) Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators.

Opponents might need to get used to players like Murray and Guentzel making a difference for Pittsburgh.

When you look at the Penguins’ salary structure for 2017-18 and beyond (for example, at Cap Friendly), there is a lot of uncertainty.

  • How are they going to figure out Marc-Andre Fleury’s situation and how it pertains to the expansion draft?
  • What will happen with Justin Schultz, a reclamation project who could command a mighty raise from the $1.4 million he signed for another run with Pittsburgh?
  • Will Nick Bonino be worth the price for another deal? How fat are they willing to leave Trevor Daley’s wallet? There are some veterans to figure out.
  • How much will RFAs such as Conor Sheary cost?

So ... yeah, GM Jim Rutherford & Co. won’t rest on their laurels this summer. Good thing his previous work - not to mention some strong scouting, in hindsight, by Ray Shero and/or his staff - will give the Penguins some enviable flexibility.

Without going too deep into their cap situation, the deals for Guentzel and Murray could be especially helpful.

At 22, Guentzel will only burn the first season of his entry-level deal in 2016-17, so the Penguins reap the rewards of a ludicrously cheap $734K cap hit. Now, Blackhawks fans will note Artemi Panarin’s performance bonuses in trying to ruin the party, but that isn’t the case with Guentzel; even if he maxes out his bonuses, his AAV will be under $1 million by Cap Friendly’s numbers.

Reminder: Guentzel has 17 points in 20 playoff games after generating 33 points in 40 regular-season games.

Matt Murray’s contract isn’t as blinding of a steal ... at least on first blush. Still, the Penguins enjoy the luxury of a $3.75 million cap hit from 2017-18 through 2019-20.

His NHL-level sample size is still pretty small, but with a .925 save percentage for his regular-season career and a .926 mark in 27 postseason games (including a whopping .936 save percentage in six 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff games), Murray could round out to the best goalie bargain this side of Devan Dubnyk.

The Penguins’ cap space might be misleading with so many decisions to make, but with likely strong performances coming from Guentzel and especially Murray at such a cheap rate for a nice chunk of time, Pittsburgh boasts the sort of flexibility to make the Blackhawks and Kings of the world very jealous.