Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby celebrating with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel after scoring a goal.
Photo credit: Associated Press

RUMOR: Pittsburgh Penguins Finally Moving On From Top Forward Jake Guentzel? Why Stalled Contracts Could Hint At An Eventual Trade

Published December 28, 2023 at 2:01 PM

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Jake Guentzel may be having a separation shortly due to stalling contract talks.

Guentzel And His Elite Production Alongside Crosby

Throughout the past eight seasons, Jake Guentzel has formed amazing chemistry with his captain Sidney Crosby. The 2013 3rd-round pick has been elite ever since stepping onto NHL ice back in 2016-17. As a rookie, Guentzel scored 16 goals, 17 assists, and 33 points through 40 games.

Guentzel then got an elevated role once playoffs rolled around where he scored 13 goals, 8 assists, and 21 points en route to a Stanley Cup. Since then, Guentzel has gone on to have a career producing constantly around the elusive point-per-game mark and scoring 40 goals on two separate occasions.

A large reason behind Guentzel's production is the chemistry that he has developed alongside captain and future Hall-of-Famer Sidney Crosby. The pair have played together for the majority of Guentzel's career and have seen great success because of it. This season, the two and first and second in Penguins Penguins goal scoring and point scoring with Crosby scoring 19 goals, 16 assists, and 35 points through 33 games while Guentzel has scored 16 goals, 22 assists, and 38 points through 33 games.

While the production from Guentzel is favorable for the Penguins' management, they may be getting forced into a corner soon because Guentzel is on an expiring contract and may walk in free agency for nothing. The Penguins winger is in the final year of his five-year $6 million per year contract and has yet to sign a contract extension with the Penguins. With the trade deadline fast approaching, being just over three months away, the Penguins will need to either lock Guentzel down for the rest of his career or part ways with their leading point scorer.

Guentzel's Contract Talks Stall Out With Pittsburgh

Insiders Chris Johnston and Josh Yohe have offered insight into Guentzel's contract talks with the Penguins and the lack of movement happening on both sides.

With uncertainty surrounding a contract extension, the Pittsburgh Penguins could consider trading F Jake Guentzel. Per, Chris Johnston & Josh Yohe.

Guentzel currently makes $6 million and could be retained on down to $3 million for the rest of the season or potentially even $1.5 million if a third team is looped into the deal for a pick. With Guentzel on pace for 40 goals and 95 points, getting him at $3 million per year or less, even if it is for just half a season and the playoffs, would be massive for just about any team in the NHL.

What Guentzel With Retention Could Return The Penguins

Guentzel will be worth quite the package for the Penguins. Even if he is just a rental, a contending team would be warranted to give up a first-round pick and top prospect for him and potentially even more.

There are many suitors for Guentzel in the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, or Winnipeg Jets could emerge as favorites for the forward.

Each of these teams would need to part ways with their top prospect/prospects to get Guentzel but it could be worth it in the long run for Pittsburgh if the prospect/prospects develop.

From the Golden Knights, the Penguins would likely net Vegas' 2024 first-round pick, their 2023 first-round pick David Edstrom, and maybe another prospect like Brendan Brisson.

From the New York Rangers, the Penguins would aim to target 2023 23rd overall pick Gabe Perreault who is widely regarded as one of the best players in college hockey and leads a line of Will Smith (2023 4th overall pick) and Ryan Leonard (2023 8th overall pick) in points. The Penguins could also land a first-round pick from the Penguins but given the caliber of Perreault, it may be difficult to get that much more than him.

Carolina has a lot of potential prospects for the Penguins to target but like Vegas and the Rangers, the Penguins are likely looking at 2023 1st rounder Bradly Nadeau who is among the best freshman in the nation with the University of Maine.

The Canucks could offer up one of the best prospects in all of hockey by parting ways with Jonathan Lekkerimaki, the 15th overall pick from the 2022 draft who is currently tearing up the SHL, but would likely leave it at him plus a second-rounder as Lekkerimaki has a bit more pedigree than some of the other prospects.

Boston currently does not have a first-round pick in 2024 so if they were to make a trade with the Penguins, they would part ways with a 2025 first-rounder plus 2021 21st overall pick Fabian Lysell. Lysell, a speedy winger, is currently playing with the Providence Bruins of the AHL and has scored 19 points through 27 games this year.

From the Winnipeg Jets, the Penguins would have three different forward prospects they could target; Brad Lambert, Rutger McGroarty, and Colby Barlow. Each is a first-round pick and all are forwards that could develop into Guentzel replacements down the road. Lambert is likely the most NHL-ready and plays a game that replicates Guentzel and could be the long-term solution for the Penguins. On top of one of these three, the Penguins could demand a first-round pick to target other weaknesses in their prospect pool.

As is, Guentzel is primed to become the number one free agent on the market for the upcoming trade deadline, and if President and GM Kyle Dubas is unable to make a deal work, then he could be gone to one of these teams, or maybe an unforeseen dark horse. This would almost guarantee that the Penguins are going into a rebuild but if they believe that they cannot win with their current core, then they may decide that this is what is best for the team long term.
December 28   |   35 answers
RUMOR: Pittsburgh Penguins Finally Moving On From Top Forward Jake Guentzel? Why Stalled Contracts Could Hint At An Eventual Trade

If Guentzel gets traded, which division is he getting traded to?

The Atlantic720 %
The Metropolitan617.1 %
The Central1028.6 %
The Pacific1234.3 %
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