The Pittsburgh Penguins’ elimination by the New York Islanders marked the third straight year they failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. That’s generated speculation over a possible roster shakeup this summer.
Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review proposed Jake Guentzel could become a trade candidate. The 26-year-old left winger skates on the top line alongside captain Sidney Crosby. He tallied 57 points in 56 games this season but was held to just two points in six games by the Islanders.
Madden said it wasn’t hard to imagine Guentzel being swapped for a different kind of forward after watching him get battered by the Islanders. He reminded his readers that the Penguins acquired rugged Patric Hornqvist in 2014 from the Nashville Predators in exchange for James Neal.
On March 24, The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reported Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke indicated he and general manager Ron Hextall wanted to add size and toughness to the lineup. However, finding a younger version of Hornqvist or a big, skillful power forward won’t be easy.
Addressing that issue could force Burke and Hextall to shop one of their better players given their limited salary cap space for 2021-22. Guentzel would be an invaluable trade chip but there’s no certainty the return would suitably replace him on their Penguins’ first line. It also might not sit well with Crosby.
Guentzel’s role as Crosby’s wingman makes it unlikely he’ll be peddled for a power forward this summer. Still, it remains a possibility if Burke and Hextall are considering all their options.