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‘Not My Choice,’ Guentzel Pins Trade Decision on Penguins



Pittsburgh Penguins trade, Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel wanted to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, with playoff hopes fading like a sunset over the Appalachian mountains which connect Pittsburgh and the outskirts of Raleigh, Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas dealt Guentzel a couple of days before the NHL trade deadline to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Guentzel, 29, is a pending unrestricted free agent, and Dubas admitted in his post-deadline press conference that the two sides had not talked since last summer, meaning the sides had not engaged in serious contract talks.

Guentzel returned to Pittsburgh Tuesday as his Hurricanes lost to the Penguins 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena. In the postgame, Guentzel let his guard down and put the trade on the Penguins.

“My intention was to stay, but they just thought there was a better direction, to go a different way,” said Guentzel. “And it was out of my hands, so it was not my choice.”

He wisely punted questions about his immediate future and if he might return to the Penguins or re-sign with Carolina, saying he’s not thinking about the summer.

No, why would he? The Hurricanes are in second place and widely seen as Stanley Cup contenders capable of winning the Eastern Conference. If they do, the conditional second-round pick (the Philadelphia Flyers’ pick) that the Penguins received as part of the Guentzel trade would upgrade to Carolina’s first-rounder.

Guentzel had six shots against the Penguins but no points and was a minus-1. It was only the third time in nine games with Carolina that he’s been scoreless. He has two goals and 10 assists since the trade.

The former Penguins winger was the ultimate winger for Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, scoring 219 goals in 503 NHL games, mostly on Crosby’s left wing.

Even Dubas admitted the trade did not make the Penguins players happy. Now, Guentzel plays on Carolina’s top line with center Sebastian Aho and RW Seth Jarvis, two guys not dissimilar from Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust.

“They like to work hard. Both guys like to get on the forecheck and work hard,” Guentzel said. “Yeah, there’s a lot of different players in this league; it’s been good so far.”

The Penguins kept their tradition of honoring past players who have won a Stanley Cup with the team with a tribute video in the first TV timeout. Guentzel waved to the crowd.

“It’s special to me to be back here. You kind of grow up (here),” said Guentzel. “So, (I have) a lot of good memories in this rink, building, and in the city. Yeah, it’s just cool to get this done with a little bit.”