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Do Lots of No-Trade Clauses = Few Trades Coming for Penguins?



Kyle Dubas

CRANBERRY — Kyle Dubas remained noncommittal Wednesday about whether the Pittsburgh Penguins will be buyers or sellers — or neither — between now and the March 8 NHL trade deadline.

That decision, he suggested, will be determined by how the Penguins perform — and where they stand in the Eastern Conference playoff race — as the deadline gets closer.

Dubas did, however, seem to rule out a full-scale makeover of his roster when he spoke of the impact four key veterans — centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson — can have not only on the current team, but on younger players who join it on coming seasons.

And those four aren’t the only ones who appear to have job security with the Penguins, at least in the short term, because Dubas, who is the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and GM,  said he has not approached any player with a no-movement or no-trade clause in his contract to waive it so that he can be sent to another club.

That can change with a single phone call, of course, but for the moment, it means that no fewer than 13 of the 26 players currently on the major-league payroll — a total that includes injured forwards Jake Guentzel, Noel Acciari and Matt Nieto and No. 3 goalie Magnus Hellberg, who is on emergency recall from the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre –have contracts that include either a no-movement or limited no-trade provision.

Crosby, Letang, Karlsson, Malkin, Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter have no-movement protections, which means the Penguins cannot put them anywhere except on their major-league roster without their permission, while Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Marcus Pettersson, Ryan Graves, Tristan Jarry, Guentzel and Acciari can specify some teams — how many varies from contract to contract — to which they do not have to accept a trade.

Guentzel’s list includes 12 teams, which means more than a third of the league could be off-limits in trade talks if Dubas decides to deal him rather than allow Guentzel to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He is eligible to come off injured-reserve March 10; whether the Pittsburgh Penguins still will be the team issuing his paychecks then remains to be seen.

“How our team continues to play will dictate the short-term answer (about Guentzel’s future here),” Dubas said. “We’ll continue to have discussions leading up to (the deadline). Then afterward, with where it’s at.”

Although Guentzel has been the subject of most of the trade speculation swirling around the Penguins in recent weeks, a Canadian TV report said the Penguins are willing to entertain offers for anyone except Crosby, Letang or Malkin.

While Dubas did not confirm that report, he did acknowledge that “we’ve received a lot of calls on a lot of our players, especially as our team has been in the spot that it’s at.”

How seriously he’s taking those inquiries, at least for now, isn’t clear, and Dubas seems reluctant to begin moving players out just yet.

“Out of respect to the group here and what they’ve accomplished, I’m trying to be as patient as possible,” he said. “Give the group the time … to show that we can really make a push and make a run at (a playoff berth).”

If the Penguins do make a run, it figures to be something of a marathon, since they’re eight points out of the second wild-card spot in the East and nine out of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

“You look today at the standings, it’s a daunting task,” Dubas said. “Is the group capable of it? Yes. We’ve shown this year that we are. But we’re running out of time.”

The Penguins (24-21-8) have just 29 games remaining, beginning with one against Montreal Thursday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena, and are far deeper in the standings than they expected to be coming out of training camp.

“Where we’re at right now is not where we aspired to be at the beginning,” Dubas said. “And where we aspire to be now.”

But it is the harsh reality of where the Pittsburgh Penguins are.

On the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff field. And nearing a crossroads for the near- and long-term futures of the franchise.