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Could Guentzel’s No-Trade Clause Be Holding Up a Deal?



pittsburgh penguins jake guentzel

The NHL trade deadline, set for 3 p.m. Friday, is coming up on the horizon, and Jake Guentzel still is on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ payroll.

Now, it’s possible — though rather unlikely — that the Penguins have reversed field and decided to try to re-sign Guentzel, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and figures to command a generous raise on the expiring deal that carries a $6 million salary-cap hit.

More likely, Kyle Dubas, the team’s president of hockey operations/GM, has yet to receive a satisfactory offer for Guentzel. Or perhaps Dubas simply is hoping to squeeze a little more out of the clubs interested in acquiring him.

There is no reason to think that the delay in moving Guentzel stems from the modified no-trade clause in his contract, which stipulates that he was allowed to identify 12 teams to which he did not have to accept a trade.

Still, no-trade and no-movement clauses can complicate management’s efforts to deal a player, since those give him the ability to veto some, and often all, potential trades.

GMs, who understandably like total flexibility when restructuring their roster, surely wish such clauses didn’t exist. The same undoubtedly is true of fans who delight in high-profile personnel exchanges and view the days leading up to (and including) Deadline Day as a late-winter holiday of sorts.

But players with no-trade or no-movement agreements have those only because management was willing to offer them, generally in exchange for the player accepting less money than he otherwise would have accepted. At a time when salary-cap space is among the most precious assets a team can possess, every dollar that can be saved when contracts are being negotiated helps.

If that means giving a player some say in where he can be traded in the future — or whether he can be traded at all — most GMs seem willing to make that concession.

Even if it means they might regret it at some point after the clause kicks in.

No need to wait

As noted in this space a few days ago, the cap space freed if/when the Pittsburgh Penguins deal Guentzel (or anyone else) could come in handy this summer, when Dubas tries again to pull off trades and free-agent signings that will transform his club into a Stanley Cup contender.

Or, at very least, one that can qualify for the playoffs.

But shedding salary could have some almost-immediate rewards, too.

If that cap space is created early enough, Dubas could use it to facilitate trades between other teams.

He could, for example, agree to take on 25 or 30 or 50 percent of the about-to-expire contract of one of the players who is switching teams, allowing all parties to remain cap-compliant.

In return, the Penguins would be compensated with a draft choice, which could help Dubas replenish the franchise’s modest prospects pool. Tampa Bay did just that Wednesday, when it took on some salary to make an exchange between Anaheim and Edmonton possible and was compensated with a fourth-round choice.

The payoff for any pick the Penguins would receive likely wouldn’t arrive for several years — assuming the player selected with it pans out at all — but it’s a gamble worth taking, since all it would cost them is money.

If the role they play in making a deal happen is significant enough, it’s not unrealistic to think the Pittsburgh Penguins could get a pick as high as a third-rounder.

You know, like the one they used to choose Jake Guentzel back in 2013.