Kyle Dubas Has Tough Decision Regarding Jake Guentzel

Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Operations and general manager Kyle Dubas met with the media on Wednesday. Dubas updated his plans for heading into the March 8th NHL Trade Deadline.

One of the burning questions on everyone’s mind is how he will handle the situation involving Jake Guentzel.

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Guentzel is a free agent at the end of this season. He is second on the team in points with 52. However, he is out of the lineup with an injury and is not due back until after the trade deadline.

As has documented, Guentzel could get between $8.5 to $9.5 million on his next contract. If he signs before July 1st, he can sign an eight-year extension; after that, it is a seven-year extension with the Penguins or any team on the open market.

Guentzel is a UFA at the end of the season, so he is a prime target to get traded. And if he does get traded, who says the Penguins will not try to re-sign to bring him after they get an asset for him?

But when speaking to the media, Dubas did not comment one way or another regarding his plans with Jake Guentzel.

“I understand how valuable he’s been as a teammate, member of the community, contributor to helping the team win a Stanley Cup, and so on and so forth,” Dubas said. “So it’s important, but at the same time, we have to take stock of where we’re at and be realistic and one of the issues we have is we need to get younger.”

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The issue for the Penguins is they have an aging team. Most of their core is over the age of 30. As a matter of fact, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin have an average of 36. And Kyle Dubas knows that. And that is the problematic balance and decision he has with Guentzel.

Guentzel is 29 years old, and his new contract will kick in around the age of 30. Does Dubas want to add another aging player to an already older group despite what Guentzel brings to the table?

“We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed,” Dubas said. “Some of them are the best in the history of the franchise. It’s tough with Jake because he’s an excellent player and playing at an elite level. We have to find a way to continue to have those solid veteran guys but continue to get younger at the same time.”

This is the dilemma Kyle Dubas finds himself in as the trade deadline approaches. Jake Guentzel has been a great player for this team. He has been an excellent contributor to the Penguins. But it is a challenging situation on both sides.

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Does Guentzel want to be a part of a rebuild once those core players move on, or does he want to win another Stanley Cup with another team?

For the first time in his career in management with the Toronto Maple Leafs and now the Pittsburgh Penguins, he had his first difficult decision to make.

But as history has shown with this team, a player is genuinely never gone until they are gone. Just look at Tristan Jarry last season. Until Jake Guentzel is genuinely gone, anything is possible. And Kyle Dubas’s history has shown that.