What the Guentzel injury means for the Penguins

Jake Guentzel, the Penguins leading scorer with 20 goals and 43 points, has been potentially lost for the entire season due to a shoulder injury suffered in the third period of Monday night’s 5-2 win when scoring his 20th goal of the season. Guentzel who crashed into the boards on the goal, had shoulder surgery Tuesday morning at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital and will be sidelined for 4-6 months, the team says.

The best case scenario of Guentzel being out around four months takes him to the second/third round of the playoffs. For an injury that often takes players around nine months to feel right again, Pittsburgh will be moving forward that Guentzel is lost for the season. If he returns in the middle of a playoff run, what an amazing bonus it would be, but Pittsburgh has to operate that his season is done.

It’s a crushing injury for the Penguins and Guentzel on a personal level who on Monday was named to the All-Star game and has been Pittsburgh’s most dominant player this season. And one thing with Guentzel that always got overlooked was his durability in you could always count on him to suit up for 80+ games.

“He’s been one of our more consistent players here for a long time,” said Mike Sullivan of Jake Guentzel. “He’s quietly become one of the elite players in the league.”

— Moving forward, what the Penguins have showed all season, including a 10-2 December without Sidney Crosby, is that they have developed a regular season formula in making them one of the hardest teams to play against, no matter whose in the lineup.

That’s the good news for the next three months and some change left in the regular season.

Despite constantly losing players to injury, they are playing with so much structure and speed in all three zones, it’s overwhelming teams similar to the ‘2016 Penguins’, that it bodes well to keep things rolling for the rest of the regular season, especially if they continue to get the goaltending they are from Tristan Jarry.

Mike Sullivan did the greatest coaching job I’ve witnessed in Penguins history during the 2016 run the Penguins had and the first couple months of this season has been right up there. Pittsburgh’s systematic play is like clock work right now and how they’re doing it with the personnel they have on the backend is such a credit to the coaching staff and buy-in from the forward group that is rarely taking shifts off.

Whether it can last for another 5-6 months to get back to the Stanley Cup remains to be seen, but even before the Guentzel injury, there was still going to be questions with the makeup of this club come postseason time if they had enough high-level scoring to overcome teams slowing down their big three of Crosby/Malkin/Guentzel.

The postseason is just a different ball game than it is right now and you have to wonder if basically dumping Phil Kessel for nothing eventually catches up for them in the spring.

With the trade deadline now just under eight weeks, a sense of urgency now emerges to add a top-6 or even a high-end third line level type of player before March.

Soon enough the Penguins being linked to Chris Kreider is going to emerge, but the organization isn’t in love enough with Kreider to pay a premium, sources say, and there is lots of interest around the league. For sure, they’re going to monitor the asking price in the coming weeks, he’s an obvious target for anybody looking to upgrade their top-6, but there’s been one rental forward regardless of injuries that Pittsburgh has been enamored with and that is [hide] Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Pageau is the one rental potentially on the market even prior to the Guentzel injury that team sources pegged as the one player on the market Pittsburgh would be comfortable in paying a premium for.

Since the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, Pageau has emerged as one of those players around the league that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has had his eye on for a couple years now, sources say, and it was Pageau and not Derick Brassard, that Rutherford initially tried to acquire from Ottawa during the 2017-2018 season when Ottawa went into fire sale mode.

Multiple NHL sources indicate it’s a near certainty Pittsburgh takes a very hard run at Pageau who can play multiple forward positions, can create his own individual offense very well and is a trusted player by coaches. Amongst the reasons Pittsburgh has him No. 1 on their trade board by a wide margin.

Pageau, 27, is having a career year with 18 goals and 29 points in 40 games, including a +19. He carries a $3.1 million cap hit. [/hide]