Jake Guentzel recovering from injury CAR

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jake Guentzel isn’t sure when he’ll make his Carolina Hurricanes debut, but he doesn’t think he’ll be out much longer.

Guentzel, who was traded to the Hurricanes by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, hasn't played since Feb. 14 because of an upper-body injury. He has 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in 50 games this season.

“I’ve been skating for the last week or so,” Guentzel said Friday. “I’ll get evaluated when I get down to Carolina and see the doctors there, so we’re still waiting for that. Not really sure when I will be back in the lineup yet, but I’m trending in the right direction.”

The 29-year-old forward was traded for Michael Bunting, forward prospects Vasily Ponomarev and Ville Koivunen, the rights to forward Cruz Lucius, a conditional first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2024 draft. Carolina also received defenseman Ty Smith.

“I know what the team has done in the past and how close they’ve been. I’m just really excited for the opportunity,” Guentzel said. “This is a special team. They’ve got a lot of high-end players and they’re really well coached.”

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t sure where Guentzel is likely to fit, but his new forward is a two-time 40 goal scorer and had 466 points (219 goals, 247 assists) in 503 games for the Penguins.

“With Guentzel, that’s just a top player; any team, I’m sure, would try to get him,” Brind’Amour said. “The exciting part about a player like that, you know the character aspect. He fits everything that we talk about. I’m really excited to see how he can fit in here and help us.”

Guentzel provides Carolina with a proven goal-scorer it sought in recent seasons. The Hurricanes (37-19-6) are second in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the New York Rangers.

“You want to score goals in this league,” he said. “It’s always a good thing when guys are setting you up. Shooting the puck and scoring goals is the biggest thing. If that’s what comes of this, I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m excited to get there.”

Guentzel said he was excited about the possibility of playing on the same line with center Sebastian Aho, who has 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 59 games this season.

“[Aho] is just a special player,” Guentzel said. “You watch from afar and you play against him, (he has) a 200-foot game and his offensive abilities are pretty special. If I get the opportunity to play alongside him, it’s a special honor. If you look at the lineup, if you play with pretty much anyone, you’re playing with a pretty good player still.”

Guentzel, who has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past seven seasons, is in the final season of a five-year, $30 million contract ($6 million average annual value) he signed with Pittsburgh on Dec. 27, 2018. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

“We haven’t been a big rental-type team,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said. “With Guentzel, we felt the price we were paying was worth the return. We felt if we could add more goal scoring to our hockey club, that made the most sense. ... We knew we needed goal-scoring. Guentzel was the premier goal-scorer on the market, in our opinion, and the price was right.”

Guentzel said, “I’ll just take it as it goes and see how it goes. I’m just coming down and working on helping the team win and see where it goes from there.”