Penguins GM Targets Specific Goal as Trade Deadline Nears

The Pittsburgh Penguins, amidst a 3-5-2 skid and facing challenges in securing a Wild Card berth, are focusing on getting younger at the trade deadline, with general manager Kyle Dubas emphasizing youth over buying or selling, and the team contemplating the future of pending UFA Jake Guentzel and other veterans to rejuvenate an aging roster.

The Penguins? Well, they’re in a bit of a bind. After a 3-5-2 run in their last 10 games, they’re teetering on the edge of being a trade deadline toss-up at best. Despite a decent plus-11 goal differential and ranking third in the Metropolitan Division, they’re stuck. They’ve got four teams to jump over to snag a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they’re not sitting on a pile of extra games to play catch-up.

Kyle Dubas, the general manager, made it clear on Wednesday. This year’s trade deadline? It’s not about buying or selling. Nope. It’s about getting younger. But how this strategy will affect their decisions, especially regarding Jake Guentzel, is up in the air. Guentzel’s nursing an upper-body injury and will be out for a bit past the deadline. Dubas admitted, “We need to get younger. We’ve got a lot of guys in their 30s, some of the best in franchise history. But it’s tough with Jake. He’s playing at an elite level.”

The chatter around trading Guentzel hasn’t cooled down, even with his injury. Dubas confirmed he hasn’t asked any Penguin to waive their no-move or no-trade clause. And Guentzel? He’s got a modified NTC, letting him list 12 teams he won’t go to. Dubas taking a youth-first approach isn’t shocking. After stepping in last summer, he inherited an aging roster. Additions like Erik Karlsson and Reilly Smith only upped the team’s average age. Tonight, against the Canadiens, over half of the 18 skaters are over 30. Guentzel’s not far behind, hitting 30 at the start of the 2024-25 season. The core, especially Sidney Crosby, would hate to see him go. Yet, there’s a hesitance to sign him long-term with so many others already locked in.

Here’s the rub for the Penguins. If they’re not using high-end draft picks for younger talent, as Dubas suggests, they’re stuck. None of their veterans, except maybe Guentzel, could bring back the young talent they need. Contracts like Rust’s, Rakell’s, and Smith’s? Either too pricey or too long. And their roster? Not much of it can be flipped this summer. Guentzel, Jeff Carter, and Jansen Harkins are the only UFA forwards up for grabs. On defense, it’s just Chad Ruhwedel. They might try to keep goalie Alex Nedeljkovic after a solid season. But even moving Carter’s $3.125M cap hit won’t give them the wiggle room they need for a serious retool.

Elliotte Friedman from Sportsnet dropped a hint about Guentzel. If Pittsburgh lets him talk extensions with other teams, that rules out the Oilers. They can’t afford the long-term deal Guentzel will want, given their cap situation. That leaves them hunting for cheaper options to boost their second line. Reilly Smith, with one season left on his deal, might be the next to go. Despite playing with Evgeni Malkin, his numbers haven’t been great. But to move him, the Penguins might need to eat some of his salary. They’ve already done this once, with Jeff Petry, to make the Karlsson deal happen last summer.

Alex Thompson
Alex Thompson
Alex Thompson is a Senior Writer for HockeyMonitor. With a background in Sports Media, Alex joined the team in 2022. He focuses on providing the latest hockey news, game scores, and fresh NHL trade rumors.

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