Pittsburgh Penguins: Who Will Go in the Next Two Weeks?

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As I sat in disbelief and heartache after watching Adam Pelech rip a shot off and beat Alex Nedeljkovic in overtime, I just knew that this team was done. The amount of shock and pain from the fans and players seemed to all show the same thing. The Penguins lost a massive point at a time when they needed to get as many points as possible night in and night out.

The day after the game, GM Kyle Dubas held a press conference just weeks before the NHL Trade Deadline. Dubas mentioned all the things he has tried to do so far and the things

he is working on for the team’s future. Now, Dubas is not used to being in this type of position. In Toronto, he always had good teams that were bound for the playoffs. He just had to bring the pieces to make the team better. Here, he has to navigate an old sinking ship of a team.

Dubas said in his press conference that he focuses on bringing in new players around the “core four”, so the four of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Erik Karlsson can help mentor the young players Dubas brings in. One player of note, captain Sidney Crosby, will become a UFA following the 2024-25 season. I believe Dubas likely consulted with Sid to make sure this was the best route forward for the team and one he is capable of staying in.

Another item of note is that the Penguins must give up a first-round pick in 2024 or 2025 to the San Jose Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade last summer. Dubas mentioned in the presser that this team is “stocked” on draft picks, and he does envision moving any of them to add to the current roster. Dubas did, however, mention that he is looking at acquiring young NHL ready (or close to it) players that can help expedite a possible rebuild. He also mentioned that nothing is “off the table”, and that prospects could be moved for an older, more NHL ready player.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. Jake Guentzel. Arguably the best forward on the trade market. Now, Sidney Crosby claims he does not like to interfere with trades or signings, but we have seen the Sidney Crosby effect in the past with Malkin and Letang. There is a reasonable assumption that Sid wants his longtime linemate to stay, so it is not silly to think that there is a legitimate chance Guentzel could stay in Pittsburgh. Now other clubs are calling, still, and Dubas will listen. However, if Dubas does want to still be competitive during this retool/rebuild era, then Guentzel is a player that would be best to keep. On the other hand, Guentzel is approaching 30 years old, and Dubas said he is trying to make this team younger.

Now it is time to talk about who I think the Penguins can move out during this; let’s stick with the “retool” era.

Jake Guentzel

As I mentioned, I do think there still is a legitimate chance that Guentzel stays, and honestly, I feel more like he will stay if Sidney Crosby has anything to say about it. Now, if he gets moved, I look at the obvious Edmonton Oilers. The price would be a lot, and the Pens would get a great return for him, but rumors are coming out that teams may want to have an extension in place with Guentzel with the trade, which the Oilers cannot do at the moment due to their lack of cap space, and the amount Guentzel will likely get/want. Since I believe this is the case, and the Oilers seem like the main team in on Guentzel, I could imagine the Penguins keeping Guentzel and the Oilers going a different route when all is said and done.

Erik Karlsson?

Elliotte Friedman threw a bit of a speculative curveball out today, saying that he could manifest Erik Karlsson getting moved back to Ottawa. Honestly, I can absolutely see this as a possibility. If the Penguins do want to get younger, EK65 would be a good player to move out. The Sens have a lot of talented young players and prospects, as well as a decent plethora of draft picks, that could be of interest to Dubas. Now, two things. Dubas did say in his presser that he wants to keep the “core-FOUR”, which includes Karlsson. Secondly, EK65 has a full no-movement clause. However, if Dubas does want to get younger like he said, it would at least be something to think about.

Reilly Smith

For the longest time, I got the feeling we would see Smith head back to the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights have been looking for a solid top 12 winger for a month or two now, but now that Mark Stone is out for a while, I can see GM Kelly McCrimmon getting more aggressive in his pursuit. Now, watching and knowing how Smith plays, I could see him fit on a team like Dallas or Arizona, or maybe Nashville. However, Friedman also looked into the possibility of Florida, the team where Smith started his career. Now, this would also make sense, as Florida has been rumored to also be wanting to get a forward. Smith would slot nicely on their second line, as he would with Vegas. I ultimately believe he will end up in Vegas, though.

As for some other names who could be moved, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, defensemen Chad Ruhwedel, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, and Marcus Pettersson, and forwards Noel Acciari and Lars Eller all are players with a bit of value. The Penguins could look to move these players for younger players and picks.

As for what will happen on March 8th, only time will tell. For now, the speculation on what can happen will continue until something gives.

Nik Shermeto

PT ‘23 | 🇺🇸/🇨🇦 | Penguins writer for Inside The Rink | Thoughts are my own.

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