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If Penguins trade Jake Guentzel, Edmonton Oilers would be ‘natural’ fit, insider says
By Zach Laing1 month ago
As is the standard around the NHL, the rumour mill often begins to pick up out of the Christmas break.
Sure, you have your general sentiments or quiet chatter about teams “checking in,” “having interest,” or just knowing what they’re in the market for, but it always feels like the New Year brings with it the acceleration. By this point in the season, teams have a general idea of where they’re at.
For the Edmonton Oilers, they’re undoubtedly buyers. They could use another scoring winger in the top nine, some depth on the blue line, and the most obvious — some to play alongside Stuart Skinner in the net. Calvin Pickard, of course, has shown well going 3-2 with a .904 save percentage in six appearances, but tepid confidence in his ability would surely fade should Skinner — knock on wood — go down with any sort of injury or ailment.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, will be scratching and clawing in hopes of making the playoffs. Come the NHL’s trade deadline, they’re a team that could sell, and there’s few bigger names than winger Jake Guentzel, a pending unrestricted free agent.
Over the holiday break, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston took a look at some of the biggest names that could be traded, where Johnston linked Guentzel to the Oilers. Here is his reasoning:
If we’re imagining a world where Pittsburgh is both trading Guentzel and retaining salary, no buyer makes more sense than Edmonton. This would be an elite-level upgrade to a team already spilling over with elite forwards, and it would give the Oilers a natural shoot-first winger who could play alongside Leon Draisaitl. It’s an intriguing thought. This is clearly another all-in year for the Oilers, who have found traction after their early-season struggles but will need a shot in the arm in the second half.
Guentzel would make a ton of sense, and as Johnston noted, a natural fit to play alongside Draisaitl. Now surely, the Oilers have have struck gold in a new-look second line where Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele flank him, but Guentzel is an offensive step above either one of these wingers.
He’s scored 16 goals and 40 points through 35 games this year, and the 2013 3rd round pick has done nothing but produce over his entire career. He took the long way to the Penguins, playing at the NCAA’s University of Nebraska-Omaha post-draft. He broke into the NHL during the 2016-17 season, scoring 16 goals and 33 points in his first 40 games, and has scored at a similar rate since. Over his whole eight-year career, Guentzel has scored 213 goals and 454 points in 488 games, hitting the 40-goal mark twice.
According to hockeyviz.com, he provides even-strength offence at a 13 percent rate above league average and defence at an 11 percent rate below league average. Since the 2018-19 season, his impact has seen him contribute as a top-six player, and that would be exactly what he could do for the Oilers.
Guentzel carries a $6-million cap hit this season, and Pittsburgh has just one player they are currently retaining salary on in Jeff Petry, meaning they could still do so in a potential trade with the Oilers.
The Athletic’s Josh Yote wrote in December that if the Penguins were to look to trade Guentzel, they could “land a first-round pick and a very good prospect in return.” For any potential trade to happen, first the Oilers would likely need to move on from Jack Campbell in order to clear the requisite cap space.
The Oilers have first-round picks to move and other “first-round picks” in Xavier Bourgault and Philip Broberg, both of whom would be on the table in a potential trade for Guentzel.
Time will tell what will happen with the Penguins and Guentzel.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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