Dubas Presser: Guentzel’s Future, Shakeup Trade, and the Rebuild Plans


CRANBERRY — Pittsburgh Penguins president Kyle Dubas had the same thought as many of us. The team needed a shakeup and needed a trade. Dubas addressed that possibility as well as Jake Guentzel’s future, Mike Sullivan’s requests, and why you should not expect to see a tear it down, burn it down, rebuild.

Guentzel’s future has been a hot topic amongst the national rights holders up north. First, the Vancouver Canucks were reportedly hot on Guentzel’s trail. Then it was the Edmonton Oilers.

Dubas may have tipped his hand Wednesday, though he certainly used enough other words to give his team a longer runway to get back into the playoff race and avoid saying he would trade the most prolific winger to play beside Crosby in franchise history.

Also, as a headline note, Dubas wants to make the team younger. That means grooming prospects such as Yager, Owen Pickering, and goalie Joel Blomqvist, as well as acquiring younger players.

As a backdrop to getting younger, Dubas plans to rely on the core plus Erik Karlsson, whom he inferred was now part of the core four, as the north stars and mentors for the young players.

Jake Guentzel

Have you ever heard the old expression to ignore everything before the word “but”?

“It’s obviously at the forefront … I think the way our whole strategy plays out in the next two-and-a-half weeks, how our team continues to play, will dictate the answer at the trade deadline,” Dubas said. “We’ll continue to have those discussions leading up to that and then afterward. But I would say I understand how valuable he’s been as a teammate, a person in the community, and as a contributor helping this team win a Stanley Cup. So, it’s important, but we have to take stock of where we are at and be realistic about the fact that one of the issues we have is a need to get younger. We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed. Some of them are the best players in the history of the franchise.”

Those words could be heard and read a few different ways, but the words after “but” sure seemed to indicate that Guentzel will not be a Penguins winger next season, and if the team isn’t in the playoff race very soon, he won’t be a Penguins winger past March 8.

Also conspicuous by its absence was any reference to contract talks.

NHL Trade Deadline/Penguins Rebuild

At the beginning of the press conference, Dubas admitted that his answers regarding the trade deadline would leave us wanting more, if not be outright unsatisfying.

However, he couldn’t help but give away a little bit of the Penguins’ immediate future. You will not see a firesale, nor a teardown rebuild, not while Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang, and Karlsson are here.

Dubas’s reliance on the new big four created the foundation for his answers, as well as his strategy moving forward. The Hall of Famers will serve as the foundation for the young players he hopes to acquire or groom.

He pointed to more things we will not see: the Penguins will not deal away their draft capital. They don’t have much left, and they’re not parting with what they have to improve in the short term.

“I still believe our group is capable. There have been many times when we show that (and) there are also times when I understand why anyone would have that question. I think everyone in the room accepts that,” Dubas said. “My view of it is I can’t see us moving future draft capital at this point to bolster the team.

“At the same time, are there moves that will allow us to add good younger players to the organization that can help expedite things here and help us support the group that’s already here? We’re trying to work through all of that. But I can’t see us expending a ton of our future draft capital this year.”

Dubas made no reference, passing, faint, or otherwise, that any of the ’ stars could ever wear a different sweater. The Penguins will instead lean on their big four to mentor those who will follow.

Of course, if the core players were not of Hall of Fame caliber, with a few Stanley Cup rings, or in Karlsson’s case, a few Norris Trophies, they would not earn the same latitude to fight until the last possible moment to get back into the playoff race.

That was another big takeaway from Dubas’s presser: He’s erased the last deadline to make decisions. The Penguins have until March 8 to pull out of the tailspin which has gripped the team, leading to a 1-4-1 record in their last six.

With the season on the line, the team has sputtered, but like many, Dubas doesn’t want to believe a team with that many talented players can’t get it together. He’s going to give every second possible before he pulls the plug.

“I think if the group didn’t have the pedigree that it has or the history that it has, I wouldn’t feel that they’re owed that same latitude,” Dubas said. “But I feel that this group, in respecting them, what they’ve accomplished in the past here, and how proud they are, I just think even others may not agree, but I think that’s the right and fair thing to do. It’s been outlined to them. They know what’s at stake.”

Dubas affirmed he had not asked any player to waive a no-trade or no-movement clause.

Possible Trade?

Dubas also recognized the Penguins have been in need of a shakeup trade. In one of the more candid moments, the GM conceded he looked for a hockey trade, the kind of which former GM Jim Rutherford was both famous and infamous.

None are available.

“We’ve explored that in the last several weeks going into the All-Star break, and we’ve tried it this year. I’ve found that those opportunities have been less, and there haven’t been many like that,” the president of hockey operations said. “The two trades that have been made have been expiring contracts for futures. So we’ve tried to give that element of the shakeup. I’m not usually a huge proponent of it, but I felt that was where our group was at, especially coming out of the break.

“Not having a really strong surge out of (the All-Star break) that was one of the things we tried to do and continue to try to do. Just the opportunities to do it haven’t really been there.”

Odds and Ends

Dubas and coach Sullivan speak every day, if not several times per day. Unlike other coaches who request X player or specific assets, Dubas said Sullivan allows him to do the shopping and offers his input.

“I’ve had coaches that I’ve worked with before that have said, ‘Can you go and get this player, that player.’ Mike and I don’t work that way. The way we tend to operate is I’ll say to him, ‘Here’s the opportunities we have. Here’s where we’re at. What do you think of this?’ He’ll largely say, if you think it’s the right thing for the team, then let’s do it.”

But asking for specific players, “I don’t think that’s his style at all.”

Fans

“They’re doing their part, and if they can continue to do that, that’s a massive help to the players in the organization.”

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