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Penguins’ Dubas Explains When He Made Guentzel Trade Decision, Aftermath



Kyle Dubas, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ past success earned them as much time as possible to reverse their season-long woes, but Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas had a breaking point when he could hold off no longer on trading Jake Guentzel.

Dubas didn’t cite one specific moment when the decision was made, but the end of the western road trip was the tipping point. The Penguins lost back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, giving up three third-period goals against Calgary on March 2, followed by a lifeless thumping in Edmonton on March 3, and were too far back in the standings.

And that was it.

“I think what the group has accomplished and the character of the group, they had earned as long of a runway as possible to see if we could get the season going. That was communicated to them a number of times,” Dubas said on his team-hosted radio show Wednesday night.”Once we got through the western Canadian road trip, especially the way it ended, it was clear to me that we had to move ahead … we needed to take the opportunity to stock up and attack the next two months in a different way.”

Dubas said the decision to move to a seller’s role at the NHL trade deadline was unanimous amongst management. However, management had no desire to leave the current group shorthanded.

The Penguins acquired Michael Bunting, three prospects, and a conditional second-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes for Jake Guentzel at the NHL trade deadline.

The Penguins trade was specifically made to acquire an NHL player because Dubas did not want to “wave the white flag” on the current roster. Otherwise, the deal would have been exclusively for prospects.

Bunting, 28, scored the Penguins’ first goal in 11 periods Tuesday night, forcing overtime against the Ottawa Senators. His contract, with a $4.5 million average annual value, runs for two more seasons beyond the current campaign.

The Penguins also acquired prospects Ville Koivunen, Vasily Ponomarev, Cruz Lucius, and conditional 2024 first-round and fifth-round picks. If Carolina makes it to the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins will receive Carolina’s first-round pick. If Carolina does not advance out of the Eastern Conference, the Penguins will receive the Philadelphia Flyers’ second-round pick.

Personal Touch

The news was broke through the course of the evening on March 7 that the Penguins and Carolina were working on the deal for Guentzel.

Dubas also confirmed reports that he drove to Guentzel’s house to tell him of the trade after the news broke. The executive, who is in his first year with the Penguins, remembered a past incident and internal criticism he received as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On July 1, 2019, Toronto dealt Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche.

“On July 1, I called and told him. I just think after being with the team for so long, he wished there was more of a personal (communication),” Dubas recounted. “On July 1, it’s not always doable to get up and leave, nor around the trade deadline, but I always said if we got in that situation again, I would want to do it in person.

“So once we had the trade completed and agreed to, I called Jake and made sure he had not already headed to the game. We were playing Washington. I said, ‘Just stay there.’ I got in the car and drove to his house to tell him in person.”

The Penguins lost to the Washington Capitals 6-0 at PPG Paints Arena.

Even though Dubas has only been with the Penguins for one season, he felt Guentzel’s tenure with the Penguins, which began at mid-season and culminated with the 2017 Stanley Cup run, deserved a personal visit.

Guentzel, 29, played 503 games with the Penguins but was on long-term injured reserve when the trade was made. He scored 219 goals with 466 points. He also played in 58 playoff games, scoring 34 goals with 58 points.

Throughout his tenure, Guentzel was primarily Sidney Crosby’s linemate but made his NHL debut on a line with Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin on Nov. 21, 2021, against the New York Rangers. Guentzel scored two goals, the first assisted by Malkin and defenseman Trevor Daley. Malkina and Kessel assisted on the second.

Guentzel made his Carolina debut Tuesday, also against the Rangers, but did not score in 15:12 of ice time.

You can listen to the entire Penguins’ GM show: