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Why Jake Guentzel Return Would ‘Surprise’ Penguins Insider

The Penguins have some (though not a lot of) salary cap space to play with this season, and Jake Guentzel is available. After trading the winger at the deadline, could a return to Pittsburgh be in the cards?

On the surface, it makes sense, and there’s a reason why many speculated it could happen when Pittsburgh dealt Guentzel to Carolina for Michael Bunting, three prospects and a conditional draft pick that will be a second-round selection in the 2024 draft. It’s never quite that simple, though.

The Athletic’s Josh Yoye fielded a question about a potential Guentzel return in a mailbag he wrote this week, and the longtime Penguins insider isn’t counting on a reunion.

“I won’t say it’s impossible, but I’d be surprised if Jake Guentzel signed with the Penguins this summer,” Yoye wrote for The Athletic. “Yes, he loves it here. Yes, he and Sidney Crosby are like peanut butter and jelly. And maybe, just maybe, he’d be willing to take a discount to return to Pittsburgh.

“However, Guentzel was pretty angry about the trade, and I think even angrier that, in his view, the Penguins never made a legitimate attempt to sign him to a long-term contract. Then, consider this: The Penguin don’t have much cap space and have holes to fill throughout the lineup.”

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That last part is probably the biggest key, of course. Any hard feelings could be quickly erased for the right price. Yoye speculates Guentzel could fetch up to $9 million per season for about six years. The Penguins, who have just under $13 million in projected cap space for the summer, probably can’t afford to stretch themselves that thin without some sort of significant roster move. Given the team’s issues on other parts of the roster, it is hard to see that calculus working out in favor of the Pens.

That’s why it might make more sense for the Penguins to turn to someone like Jake DeBrusk in free agency and hope he can find the same sort of chemistry with Crosby that Guentzel did.

Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images