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PHN Blog: Karlsson Trade Watch, Replacing Guentzel?



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ weekend won’t be the ordinary, relaxing shorts-and-t-shirts affair, but the final hours in which they can buy out a player making more than $4 million. Hoping to avoid the painful option of last resort that adds dead money to a team’s cap structure, the Penguins trade watch is in full effect.

After agreeing to a contract with forward Drew O’Connor Wednesday, Penguins GM/president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas has until Sunday night to exercise a buyout, or the window closes until next June.

And so there is a little more urgency to get the Erik Karlsson trade, or any Penguins trade, done this weekend.

But you probably knew all of that. It’s been 35 days that Penguins fans have arisen, wondering if today was the day. Like The Amazing Criswell, there have fantastic Twitter predictions several times that today was the day. (Criswell was the “psychic” in the Ed Wood movies and 1950s TV.)

While the closure of the buyout window Sunday night doesn’t preclude Dubas from making a trade, it does take an option off the table, leaving the Penguins with only one path forward.

Because the Penguins are over the salary cap, once Dubas loses the leverage of other options, the trade costs probably increase.

Of course, the object of the buyout discussion has been Mikael Granlund.

Has anyone else begun to feel bad for Granlund? At this point, every fan and media outlet, local and national, has discussed the 31-year-old forward’s potential buyout many times. It can’t be comfortable for the player, and some outlets have been pretty harsh.

Granlund doesn’t get much credit for recording 41 points last season, which would be more than several of the Penguins’ bottom-six players combined. He had 64 points the previous season.

He’s not without talent, but the fit with the Penguins was painfully bad from the start, and his skills do not translate well to a team that wants to play an up-tempo forecheck game.

Many have speculated Jeff Petry to Chicago as part of the Karlsson-Penguins trade. It would seem Petry must be a part of the deal, lest the Penguins have a $6.25 million third-pair, right-side defenseman whose value will not increase with additional defensive-zone duties and without power-play time.

However, perhaps Arizona could be convinced to reunite Granlund and Jason Zucker. The pair had great chemistry in Minnesota, and Arizona has more cap room than arena space.

While this reporter has stated on broadcast TV and radio that in my gut, I never felt like the Karlsson-Penguins trade would happen. If there’s a moment in which Dubas ups the offer, this is it.

Jake Guentzel:

The Penguins’ lineup figures to be without Jake Guentzel for at least the coming season’s first couple of weeks, if not more. After beginning his training regimen, including playing in Minnesota’s Da Beauty League, Guentzel didn’t feel his ankle was healthy.

He and the team opted for surgery.

Much has been made on social media of Guentzel playing in the famous summer league, but that’s the process of getting ready for the season. Whether Guentzel was injured in the league (which does not appear to be the case) or aggravated the ankle injury, those are the breaks.

Players are beginning to skate. Many guys skate at private camps, such as the one Kris Letang and P.O Joseph annually attend near Montreal.

There is no evidence of anything nefarious or irresponsible with Guentzel’s injury, though it should pause any discussions of a long-term contract.

In October, the Penguins will have a temporary hole in their lineup. Perhaps this is Drew O’Connor’s big chance to be a power forward on a scoring line. It would be interesting to see him beside Evgeni Malkin. Perhaps Andreas Johnsson gets the call beside Sidney Crosby.

Or … wait for it … Granlund?

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve written much about O’Connor, but his late-season charge was encouraging. He’s not a top-six talent, but perhaps a third-line staple with 15-goal potential who adds size, speed, and some youth to the lineup.