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Is Jake Guentzel a Penguins Trade Chip? | PHN+

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Pittsburgh Penguins trade, Jake Guentzel

So far, Ron Hextall has executed just one Pittsburgh Penguins trade since taking over the GM spot in February, following Jim Rutherford’s shocking resignation in January. In the first course of the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason, we’ve circled a few players via free agency or via the NHL trade market who could or would make the Penguins a better team in 2020-21. Still, there has been little movement around the league in advance of the July 21 expansion draft.

Though NHL circles exploded with chatter on Thursday as the LA Kings snagged Victor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators.

Three straight opening-round losses mandate changes, but the 2021 Penguins showed the burst and fire necessary to charge forward. They raised their potential and hopes enough that structurally altering changes aren’t necessary, but significant changes are both possible and probable.

Without structural changes like an Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang trade (not happening), the Penguins trade chips are both significant but few.

Somewhat of a taboo subject, but possible Penguins trade could involve Jake Guentzel.

To be clear, there hasn’t been a leaked rumor or so much as a hint from our league sources that the Pittsburgh Penguins have engaged in talks about Guentzel. But you also don’t want something like that getting around, and there are very few players in exchange for Guentzel who could make the Penguins a better team.

Guentzel is a crafty winger. At 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, he certainly not a bruiser. Instead, he finds ways to score. Or help Sidney Crosby to score.

And therein lies Guentzel’s unique value. The Penguins seemingly had an annual trade deadline derby where one lucky winger would come to Pittsburgh to be on Crosby’s line. Some stuck, like Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Most didn’t stick on Crosby’s wings, even talented snipers like Phil Kessel. 

Not until Guentzel arrived in 2017 did the Penguins finally find another young winger who made Crosby better.

The statistics speak for themselves. Guentzel has 43 goals in his last 96 regular-season games. He sprang for 40 tallies in the last full NHL season of 2018-19. And he’s scored more than a point per game in the last two seasons.

Those types of wingers aren’t just hanging around on the trade market or begging for work in the free-agent pool.

But the Penguins also have needs.

And salary cap problems.

And a lack of size.

And–those pesky three straight opening-round losses hanging over them like a fart in a crowded elevator.

In those three losses, Guentzel has three goals and six points; he scored one goal in each series. That sort of production is No Bueno for the top line LW.

His lack of size was an obvious impediment in these obstruction playoffs.

It doesn’t help that the Penguins’ opponents have been THE most stingy defensive teams in the NHL: The New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens…and the Islanders again.

Some may want to give the Penguins a slight pass because of the success of their opponents, but the Penguins will politely decline. They should have beaten the Islanders this season.

“I’ve got to find a better way to produce and do my job there,” Guentzel said on locker clean-out day last month. “So I take responsibility for that, and I let a lot of people down. But I’ve just got to find a way to put the puck in and make plays and be better there.”

Guentzel is headed to the weight room this summer, too.

But can the Penguins trade Guentzel and solve a few issues? The answer is a definite “Maybe.”

Guentzel has a high value to the Penguins and a $6 million salary. It doesn’t make sense for the Penguins to trade him for green bananas on the NHL trade market because they are in win-now mode. It would be wildly foolish to move him to simply clear salary-cap space.

So, a Penguins trade would be a hockey trade. A player for a player.

And there aren’t many players who can boast 83 goals in their last 178 games. Nor the ability to make Sidney Crosby better.

The Penguins would need a Guentzel replacement in return for Guentzel. Or perhaps he is the key piece in a blockbuster deal for another star. When Mathew Tkachuk’s name popped up for a brief moment on the NHL trade watch, that is the type of deal that makes sense.

A John Gibson type deal.

But there aren’t many available.

So, could the Penguins trade Jake Guentzel? Absolutely. He is a valuable Penguins trade chip. But they have to get better in the process, and that’s not so easy.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
1 month ago

He is probably their biggest trade asset. You cant replace his goals but if your receiving tangible assets in return. You def have to consider it. Lets face it, 3 mos in a weight room followed by the NHL schedule will really be hard for 59 to maintain a bulk that helps him this year. Have to at least listen. I would do MT in a minute if the given the opportunity.

SD Pens Fan
SD Pens Fan
1 month ago

Guentzel for Tom Wilson would greatly improve the Penguins chances of winning a cup. He has more skill than any Penguins fan wants to give him credit for, can kill penalties, and scares other teams. Only down side is trying to keep him from going overboard and getting suspened.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

This is a bit like trading for Rick Tocchet. The fan in me at the time loved Mark Recchi. But that deal changed things. I liked James Neal but I grew to love Patric Hornqvist. If Guentzel is traded, it would have to be that type of deal. If Tkachuk is really on the market, I would seriously consider that deal. It makes too much sense based on need and both teams get a really good player. The fit issue is tricky though.

morslene
morslene
1 month ago

I would bet a paycheck that Burke and Hextall got sick of watching Jake pick himself up off the ice against the Islanders. You have to give to get and they want to get bigger.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  morslene

I got sick of watching it. I really give Guentzel credit. He competes hard. He got up every time. That series didn’t expose Jake’s weaknesses so much as the Pens’. If they could add size and grit surrounding Jake, that’s preferable. There’s no denying that he is their most attractive potential trade prospect. I am really curious to see what Hextall has in mind.

Lars Erik Nelson
Lars Erik Nelson
28 days ago
Reply to  Steve

I think it is possible for Jake to excel with Malkin by getting him away from the top checking line. The Pens need to find someone who can skate with Crosby and put some pucks in the net by going to the net. We need a power forward to give Crosby some space. Obviously, this is a hard person to find, but I would trade Zucker and move Jake down. The trick is to look at a guy that doesn’t stand out right now, because he is on a bad team and get him. A diamond in the rough. The… Read more »

Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
30 days ago

I would say Zucker and Guentzel should be trade bait you need a Risto or Wilson or Tka although would be funny to see TWilson skating with Crosby

Steven Pavlik
Steven Pavlik
29 days ago

“I’ve got to find a better way to produce and do my job there,”

“So I take responsibility for that, and I let a lot of people down. But I’ve just got to find a way to put the puck in and make plays and be better there.”

Is it so hard for him to bulk up and gain muscle to his (imaginary) 180lb frame?

Penguinfan
Penguinfan
28 days ago

Why would Capitals trade Wilson?…let alone to a rival. Sure he’s the type you hate on the other team but love when he on yours. But I really rather not him be playing for the Pens if he gets a 20+ game suspension.

James
James
28 days ago

You guys are hilarious. You look at Brayden Point as a huge example here.. the guy is an inch smaller and 15 pounds lighter, no one telling him that he needs to bulk up or get bigger. He leads the entire playoffs in goals as he did too last year. Guentzy lead entire playoffs in goals in 2016 and 2017 until being eliminated in semifinals. If Point goes on a bit of a drought for goal scoring, watch all y’all say he needs to add weight. That’s ridiculous.. it’s all psychological.. Guentzy let these guys get into his head whereas… Read more »

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