First Call: Tampa set to sign Jake Guentzel; Livvy Dunne boosts Pirates merch; Brandon Aiyuk 'for sure' wants to stay with 49ers (2024)

After trading to acquire his rights, it looks like the Tampa Bay Lightning will work out a deal with former Penguin Jake Guentzel.

Brandon Aiyuk claims that he wants to stay in San Francisco. A pair of second-year Steelers are getting their tires pumped at NFL.com. Livvy Dunne is influencing Pirates T-shirt sales.

And Gerrit Cole has his first victory in his return from injury

All that in Monday’s “First Call.”

Jake shaking up Tampa Bay

Former Penguin Jake Guentzel is signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s according to a social media post from Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff on Sunday night.

Sources say #GoBolts have agreed to terms on a contract with Jake Guentzel after a productive Sunday.

Details have been hard to come by as Tampa has other moving parts, and info might not come out until tomorrow.

— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 1, 2024

Guentzel’s rights had been traded to Tampa Bay from Carolina earlier in the day. So, all indications were that Tampa was likely close to a deal with the former Pittsburgh Stanley Cup Champion. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun is expecting the announcement of a seven-year pact between the 29-year-old winger and the Lightning as soon as free agency opens Monday.

Still not finalized, but all signs point to Tampa getting Jake Guentzel signed to a 7-year deal. I would expect an announcement sometime tomorrow before the market opens. The Bolts weren't going to trade for his rights without feeling good about their chances to get him signed. https://t.co/G2SHOPjvdw

— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 1, 2024

After being traded from the Pens to Carolina last season, Guentzel tallied eight goals and 17 points in the regular season. Then he added four goals and five assists in 11 postseason games.

Fine with the 49ers?

For all the talk about Brandon Aiyuk perhaps leaving the 49ers, the wide receiver insists that he wants to stay in San Francisco.

TMZ Sports ran into Aiyuk at Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend and asked him if he wants to be wearing a “San Francisco 49ers uniform” next year.

“For sure,” Aiyuk replied. “For sure.”

Brandon Aiyuk to @TMZ when asked if he wants to be in a 49ers uniform next year.

Aiyuk: "For sure. For sure!"

BA so explained rolling up to 49ers HQ in a Pittsburgh Pirates hat & told fans to "stay tuned" regarding him signing a new deal.pic.twitter.com/DUXl8QHPtc

— KNBR (@KNBR) June 29, 2024

In recent days, Aiyuk has left a lot of people wondering if he may want to leave the Niners for Washington because of his frustration with contract negotiations in San Francisco. Aiyuk is close with Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The Steelers have long been rumored as a potential trade target as well if Aiyuk and the Niners can’t come together on an extension beyond this year. That conversation picked up some steam Friday when Aiyuk posted a video of himself pulling into Levi’s Stadium wearing a Pirates hat. But the 26-year-old told TMZ he was just wearing the hat because the Pirates sent him some gear after connecting on Instagram.

Aiyuk is scheduled to make $14.1 million on his entry-level fifth-year option.

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Hot ticket

Speaking of TMZ Sports, they caught up with the folks at Baseball Dugout LLC. That’s the company that created the presidential ticket-esque “Skenes-Jones ’24” black-and-gold T-shirts to capitalize on the success of Pirates pitchers Paul Skenes and Jared Jones.

Well, Skenes’ girlfriend, Instagram influencer Livvy Dunne, posted herself wearing one of the shirts last week. And the company tells TMZ that ever since that happened, sales have gone up 1,400%.

Sales of a Paul Skenes and Jared Jones-themed t-shirt exploded after #LivvyDunne wore it earlier this month.

Full story ???? https://t.co/MWXHV8wNAj pic.twitter.com/nYFDf6uNnN

— TMZ (@TMZ) June 30, 2024

Skenes pitched six innings on Saturday in Atlanta. He gave up one run in a no-decision as he struck out nine Braves before being pulled in what became a 2-1 loss. Jones is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

Breaking ’aht!

On Friday, NFL.com put together its 2024 NFL All-Breakout Team on defense. The list is comprised of “11 defensive players poised to make noise in 2024.”

Players on it “have yet to receive any All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors” but are expected to “garner consideration with their play in the coming campaign.” Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks authored the post. Two Steelers are on it. The first one is second-year defensive lineman Keeanu Benton.

“As an energetic defender with a non-stop motor and active hands, Benton outworks and outlasts blockers to win battles on critical downs,” Brooks said of Benton. “Though it is easier to win when playing alongside T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith, Benton’s disruptive talents could help the Steelers get back to playing championship-caliber football.”

The other Steelers player mentioned is cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

“The second-year pro is a dark-horse contender for Pro Bowl honors in 2024 after thriving as the CB1 in Pittsburgh down the stretch last season. Porter’s toughness, tenacity and tools make him a difficult matchup for pass catchers who lack the speed and physicality to escape his clutches at the line. Though he remains a work in progress on the island, Porter’s alpha-dog mentality and unshakeable confidence could enable him to shine without a polished game,” Brooks said.

Porter was on the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie team a year ago.

Gerrit gets going

On Sunday, Gerrit Cole had his third start since returning from injury for the New York Yankees. It was his best one yet.

Cole tossed five innings, allowing just one run and totaling six strikeouts en route to an 8-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The former Pirate allowed just three hits and one walk.

Cole World ???? pic.twitter.com/S6rfoa7jCL

— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 30, 2024

His last time out against the New York Mets, Cole allowed six earned runs in just four innings, giving up seven hits and four walks. The 2023 Cy Young Award winner got some help in Toronto from Aaron Judge. He blasted a 423-foot home run.

Captain Crush ????#AllRise pic.twitter.com/dEwAQI1Unf

— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 30, 2024

That’s Judge’s league-leading 31st homer of the year. The Yankees (.628) are zero games back and just percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (.631) for the American League East lead.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via X. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

Categories:Penguins/NHL | Pirates/MLB | Sports | Steelers/NFL | Breakfast With Benz | Tim Benz Columns

First Call: Tampa set to sign Jake Guentzel; Livvy Dunne boosts Pirates merch; Brandon Aiyuk 'for sure' wants to stay with 49ers (2024)
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