Even though they seem ready to welcome back captain Sidney Crosby in the next few days, the Pittsburgh Penguins will still be without one of their most potent offensive weapons for the rest of the season. Jake Guentzel is facing a four to six month recovery time after his recent shoulder surgery, which according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, has the Penguins looking for help up front.
Earlier today, Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required) also wrote that Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford is “ready to deal,” though suggested a bit of a different take. Custance listed Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Bjugstad—noted forwards—as players to watch on the trade market. If Rutherford is looking for a swap upfront, it wouldn’t be the first time. Just last year the Penguins traded away Carl Hagelin for Tanner Pearson when they needed a different look. Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan followed out the door when they were looking for a bit more punch up front, landing Bjugstad and Jared McCann in return. The following summer they traded Phil Kessel for Galchenyuk (after attempting to pry Jason Zucker out of Minnesota), and while that deal had a ton of factors, it still showed the willingness to try something different at the forward group around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
That may be exactly what is happening now, especially with Guentzel—one of the only forwards on the team to find instant chemistry with basically anyone you put him with—on the sideline. The Penguins do have other assets, but it’s hard to know exactly what would be available in any trade to acquire real impact forwards. A lot has been written about the fact that Casey DeSmith is sitting in the minor leagues while Tristan Jarry runs away with an NHL job, but there is also little certainty in the goaltending position given Jarry and Matt Murray’s contract status past this season (both are restricted free agents at season’s end).
At the very least, you can bet that Rutherford will be willing to take a swing at the fences and go for another Stanley Cup. The team has managed to stay in a divisional playoff spot even with their countless injuries and are now getting closer to having their superstar back at center ice. If there’s a GM to watch over the next few weeks—or really at any time during the year—it’s the one sitting in the Pittsburgh front office.