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NHL Trade Rumors

Deadline Fallout: Penguins Internal Anger; Trades Not Made

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jake Guentzel

BOSTON — The NHL trade deadline provided one of the more surprising twists after Pittsburgh Penguins president Kyle Dubas traded away Jake Guentzel later Thursday evening to the Carolina Hurricanes for three lower-ranked prospects and Michael Bunting. While Dubas made a strong case for the trio of prospects at his press conference Friday after the deadline, the fallout saw collapsing prices across the league.

The Guentzel trade was unlikely the catalyst for the quickly favorable market for buyers, but the falling trade prices did cost the Penguins.

Dubas dealt pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to the New York Rangers for a fourth-rounder and third-goalie Magnus Hellberg to Florida for an organizational depth goalie and a seventh-rounder.

Penguins Trades Not Made

The prices fell through the floor. Many fans expected Reilly Smith to find a new home, and Pierre LeBrun reported last week that more teams had called about Smith than about Guentzel.

Since it seems the TSN reporters had a little edge on us local folks at this deadline, we’ll assume it’s true. Smith does have a 10-team no-trade clause. Smith pushed back hard when PHN asked about his unhappiness in Pittsburgh, and we believe him, too.

Jason Zucker going for only a sixth-rounder was shocking but indicative of the falling prices throughout the day. Dubas seemed to speak directly to the Smith trade chatter at the beginning of his press conference.

“The (players) with term, especially in the flatter cap market, are a little tougher (to trade). And then the secondary part is the decision-making of ‘what’s the value today at the trade deadline vs. the summer with the salary cap going up vs. next year at the trade deadline?” Dubas asked rhetorically. “…So, in every decision with every player that we made was: what’s the expected value today versus the future, juxtaposed against what is their value to our team now and moving into next season.”

Dubas can be a little hard to translate into print. Essentially, Dubas admitted players with term are tougher to trade, and he evaluated Smith’s value to the team against the offers he received on Friday and the offers he might receive this summer or next year.

It would appear he played the “asset management” game and punted to the summer or beyond. The analysis from this spot is that Smith’s season and the negative chatter surrounding him will drive down his value, putting Dubas in a spot where the Penguins recoup little value or hold onto the player.

Penguins Anger

On Wednesday, we chased a trade story that reached a dead end. However, Dubas publicly confirmed the first part of what our source told us.

The Penguins players and coaches were unhappy with the Guentzel process. Management sat down with at least one team leader to explain what was coming. Dubas said he did the same with coach Mike Sullivan.

“They’re¬†fiercely competitive. So that means they’re unhappy with me on a day like (Thursday) when you move somebody from the group, and it’s my duty to continue to improve our team day in and day out,” Dubas said.

“Mike’s been here a long time. So he’s like the players. When you make the decision to remove a member of the group (who) is hugely popular and contributes in such a great way, nobody’s happy about it right now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t want them ever to be happy about those things.

“So, that’s part of this job, and it’s part of their job to be upset when those things happen.”

The anger seemed to be focused within the Penguins, not the traded player.

Jake Guentzel

Watching Guentzel’s Zoom press conference with Carolina was another world. It quickly reminded me that Guentzel grew up in a professional hockey family. He’s been exposed to the business side of things his whole life. So, while Sidney Crosby and Sullivan may have been angry, Guentzel seemed unphased.

He barely mentioned Crosby, despite a pair of questions that included his chemistry and relationship with the Penguins’ captain. Guentzel focused his answers on the Hurricanes lineup and the coming days.

The dueling press conferences also make it easier to connect the dots of the story. Dubas confirmed he talked to Guentzel and his camp last summer, but did not have ongoing conversations since then.

Guentzel said, “I didn’t have much communication with Kyle until near the end.”

It would seem Guentzel’s future was decided last summer, and the only decision was if the Penguins would keep him for a playoff run or trade him.