Jake Guentzel signed a new 5-Year, $30 Million contract yesterday, Helping set the Pittsburgh Penguins up for success after Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are gone.
Sidney Crosby (Sid) and Evgeni Malkin (Geno) is as recognizable as Calvin and Hobbes or Penn and Teller. However, much like Laverne and Shirley, all good shows must come to an end. At 31 and 32 years old, respectively, the Penguins two superstars may be on the back nine of their careers. That may not mean that the team has to go through a long swoon once they are gone.
While the core of their roster is in their 30’s, the Pittsburgh Penguins have quietly been hoarding their young talent. They have already locked up Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust through 2021-22. This will ensure that the new generation of Penguins will have great mentor-ship coming from players that were led by one of the greatest captains of today’s generation.
Analyzing the Jake Guentzel Deal
If you follow some of the great hockey minds on Twitter, you may think that every Restricted Free Agent (RFA) gets an offer sheet. I had to be the disinformant, but we haven’t seen an offer sheet since the Philadelphia Flyers signed Shea Weber to one in 2012. That was quickly matched by the Nashville Predators.
However, with current crop of projected RFA’s, it may actually happen this off-season. This is why it was essential for Jim Rutherford to get Guentzel locked up before the uncertainty of the off-season. I know it seems unlikely that Jake would garner an offer sheet, but with his big game resume, his price could have been too much for the Penguins to afford. This would have left them in a situation similar to the William Nylander contract dispute that we witnessed this past off-season. I am not comparing the two players as a one-for-one comparison, merely analyzing the situations.
Career So Far
Jake Guentzel, a former 3rd round pick out of Nebraska-Omaha, has been with the Penguins organization since the 2nd half of the 2016-17 season. He has amassed 114 Points in 159 Games. His true value has been his performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where has a whopping 42 Points in 37 Games.
The best part of Guentzel’s game does not show up on any stat sheet. He loves playing with Sidney Crosby. I know that everyone would relish the opportunity to play with one of the greatest Center Iceman in the history of the game, but not everyone can do it well. Jake is a shooter, and he does not yield to Sid, as some young players have tended to do in the past. Sid always trusts that Jake will be in the right spot on the ice and make the correct play. The threat that this creates for opposing defenses only makes a guy like Crosby even more dangerous. So the argument that Guentzel is a product of Sidney Crosby, actually goes both ways.
Adjusting His Game
A little known fact about the one-time Omaha Maverick is that he is a natural Center Iceman. Even as recently as his time in the American Hockey League (AHL), he was still playing Center. When he was called up to the big club, he was immediately put on the Left-Wing. At 5’11” and 180 pounds, he does not have the stereotypical build of an NHL Center, and he quickly adapted to his new role by scoring twice in his NHL debut. I think it is safe to say that the transition could not have gone better for him.
What the Future Holds
It is hard to envision a scenario where the Pittsburgh Penguins try to move Jake Guentzel back to Center. He could serve as a gap filler after either Sid or Geno retires. There is a wealth of good center iceman coming up through the Pens farm system, including Teddy Blueger and Jordy Bellerive, so it would not serve as a long term solution to leave Guentzel at center. Especially considering the success he has already had as a winger. The most important change that I envision for Jake Guentzel is the change to his uniform. No, I am not talking about a trade or exposure to the Seattle expansion draft. I believe that Jake Guentzel will serve as the next Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It seems bold to even imagine another Captain after Crosby, but Guentzel is a perfect transition to the next young, not yet drafted, Penguins ambassador.
Let me know your thoughts on the Jake Guentzel extension in the comments below.
stats provided by our friends at hockey-reference.com