The NHL trade market is set, but there are more details to consider for the Pittsburgh Penguins and pending free agent Jake Guentzel.
Off-handedly, Sportsnet 590 host Nick Kypreos mentioned during his show Friday that he heard the Penguins put a six-year, $50 million contract in front of Guentzel, but it has not yet been signed.
Kypreos didn’t seem to be “reporting” as social media accounts claimed, but the former Hockey Night in Canada analyst does have significant inroads in the hockey community. Friday night, we also got another piece on the Guentzel-Penguins chessboard when the Montreal Canadiens traded Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg coughed up a 2024 first-rounder and a conditional 2027 third-rounder.
Those who want trades, and lots of them, seized upon the Penguins’ situation. What could Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas get for Guentzel on the NHL trade block?
The new bits of information do present a clearer picture regarding Guentzel’s future. Color me a little bit shocked if Guentzel indeed turned down $50 million. He might get a little more on the open market, but he has a perceived drawback that others on the market don’t have: Guentzel’s career numbers are at least a little inflated playing beside Sidney Crosby.
First, let’s examine what Montreal truly received for Monahan.
A first-rounder? Well, kind of. The Winnipeg Jets find themselves near the top of the Western Conference and are a real threat to win the Stanley Cup. Their pick figures to be somewhere between 22 and 32.
And a conditional third-rounder in three years.
It’s not exactly a franchise-changing haul, but Monahan isn’t a top-line player.
Earlier this week, the Calgary Flames traded Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks. Lindholm’s value is similar to Guentzel’s, if not slightly higher because he’s a top-six center who is very good at both ends of the ice. Calgary received a 2024 first-rounder from a top Western Conference team, 27-year-old second-year NHL’er Andrei Kuzmenko, a conditional fourth-rounder, and defenseman prospects Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo.
Kuzmenko, an undrafted Russian player, had 74 points as a first-year NHL’er, but isn’t on pace to score 40 this season, and he’s been in and out of the press box. Kuzmenko has 21 points (8-13-21) in 43 games. Coach Rick Tocchet runs a tighter ship, and things have changed in Vancouver. So, Calgary’s big prizes are a late first-rounder, a struggling winger, and two mid-level prospects who don’t project to be top-four defensemen.
Penguins fans hoping for the NHL trade market to rain down manna from heaven in exchange for Guentzel might be sorely disappointed.
A pick in the back of the first round amounts to a Sam Poulin, Owen Pickering-type player. Many useful players emerge from the picks in the hinterlands beyond 20th, but it’s far from a slam dunk. It’s more like a 35% probability the player will even play 200 games, according to a recent draft analysis.
Would such a haul — a first-rounder and an NHL player of lesser ability — really help the Penguins in the immediate or the future?
Specifically, would it be better for the Penguins’ retooling to snare a late first-round pick (with a one-third chance or less to be impactful) and a lesser player OR the salary cap space to apply to next season?
Hint: choose the latter.
The Monahan deal reinforced the Lindholm price tag, and now the market is set. If Dubas and the Penguins feel they have a good chance to make the playoffs, Guentzel would be the best player they could possibly acquire to bolster their lineup.
What separates Montreal and Calgary from the Penguins is short-term expectations. Calgary and Montreal aren’t trying to win now and next season before the bill for three Stanley Cups and a decade of sellouts comes due.
However, if they’re scared off by his contract ask, or his rejection of their best offer, and someone makes a better offer than the Flames received for Lindholm, all bets are off, but that seems unlikely.
The NHL trade market has more buyers than sellers but little money to spend. The prices and stage are set.
Just don’t expect any miracles.