Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes acquire Jake Guentzel, Ty Smith from Pittsburgh Penguins

The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired two-time 40-goalscoring winger Jake Guentzel and defenceman Ty Smith from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2024 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, Michael Bunting, Ville Koivunen, Vasili Ponomaryov, and Cruz Lucius.

Guentzel, 29, is a pending unrestricted free agent in the final season of a five-year, $30-million contract with a $6-million contract, though the Penguins retained 25 percent ($1.5-million). He's played his entire eight-year career with the Penguins, playing primarily as Sidney Crosby's wingman, but irreconcilable differences on a contract extension paired with the team's dire short-term outlook forced him onto the market as one of if not the deadline's biggest name.

It's been a difficult season for Guentzel, whose 32-goal pace represents the lowest-scoring full-season clip since his second year in the NHL. We can probably attribute much of that to the Penguins' struggles on the power play and his individual shooting percentage dipping to about four points below his career norm, though.

Traditionally, Guentzel has been among the NHL's most efficient, consistent finishing talents. That had to be appealing for a Hurricanes team that has struggled to turn shot volume into goals in playoffs past.

That they were able to cut bait on the failed Bunting experiment and clear $4.5-million in cap space in each of the next two seasons in the process? All the better.

The Penguins return is centred on the collection of prospects, highlighted by Ponomaryov. He's been slowly developing in the Hurricanes system and appears to be well on his way to playing in a bottom-six, checking role sooner than later. Koivunen has shown well in Finland this season and has legitimate offensive upside, and the same is true, to perhaps a lesser degree, of Lucius in college.

I'm sure Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas is happy to reunite with Bunting, too. The 28-year-old gritty winger signed a three-year, $13.5-million contract with the Hurricanes last offseason but hasn't quite fit in the way the team had hoped. He's scoring at his usual rate, but his two-way profile has fallen off a bit, and for a team with several looming, big financial decisions on the horizon, it seems he was a luxury they could no longer afford.

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NHL Carolina Hurricanes Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Michael Bunting Jake Guentzel
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