Rangers Rumors: Is Jake Guentzel a realistic trade target?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are the best team in the NHL as we are about to flip the calendar from 2023 to 2024. At 24-8-1 for a total of 49 points, they are tied with the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights. However, thanks to playing fewer games than both those teams, they hold the tiebreaker with a .742 points percentage.

Vancouver and Vegas won’t be in action again until the new year, as the Rangers start a back-to-back set on Friday versus the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Given the way the team is playing, they could start to create some distance for the Presidents’ Trophy.

While that’s a nice accomplishment, it isn’t the Stanley Cup, which is the only trophy anyone really cares about. In order to win that, the Rangers will be buyers when the NHL Trade Deadline rolls around on March 8.

One name that’s been talked about recently is Jake Guentzel. It’s safe to say that he would be a good fit, but would the Pittsburgh Penguins trade him to a division rival? Let’s try to answer that question.

Related: Blake Wheeler coming on for Blueshirts

Rangers Rumors: Jake Guentzel

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to possible deadline targets, contenders like the Blueshirts are shopping for need in the rental market. That’s basically a high-profile player that will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and the selling team has no hope or desire to re-sign. In the case of Jake Guentzel, he fits the criteria.

The 29 year-old winger is a pending UFA with a cap hit of $6M AAV. He also has a modified no-trade clause, which could help limit the field at the deadline. Regardless, the Penguins will have to eat maybe the entire 50% allowed of his salary for the Rangers to fit him in under the cap.

There’s no doubt in my mind that GM Chris Drury would be interested in Guentzel, who has scored 16 goals and 38 points in 33 games this season to date. He’s a versatile forward that plays well in the rough and tough Metro division that the Rangers will need to survive in order to advance in the playoffs.

However, would the Penguins help a division rival in their quest for the Stanley Cup?

In a recent article for The Athletic, Pierre LeBrun matches the Rangers to Guentzel. He did also stipulate that it would be dependent on the possibility that the two sides could not agree to an extension by the deadline. Another factor is if the Pens are close to a playoff spot around that time. Pittsburgh is currently out of the picture by 3 points for the final wild card.

The Penguins have a new man in charge with Kyle Dubas at the helm. Before the season started, he took a huge gamble in trading for Erik Karlsson and his massive salary, which hasn’t exactly paid off. He also knows he has an aging squad with 9 players 32 or older, including Sidney Crosby (36), Kris Letting (36), and Evgeni Malkin (37).

For some perspective, the last time these two franchises made a deal it was a minor one back in 2013, with the Rangers acquiring Benn Ferriero for Chad Kolarik. However, if the Rangers are willing to give up their first round pick and some prospects, there’s a good chance for a trade.

Michael Peca leaving after one season?

We’ve already talked about the Rangers incredible start to the 2023-24 season and that’s due in large part to Peter Laviolette and his coaching staff. Associate coach Phil Housley, along with assistants Michael Peca and Dan Muse have done a wonderful job improving the Rangers in every facet of the game.

Peca, in particular, is responsible for the Rangers leading the NHL in two important categories: Power Play (31.1) and Face-Offs (54.7). There’s no doubt that he’s an up-and-coming star in the coaching ranks and teams will start to take notice.

In a recent article for NY Sports+, Larry Brooks speculates that if the Buffalo Sabres fail to make the playoffs, it’s very likely the one-time captain of the team could be the next head coach.

The signs are all pointing in that direction for the 49 year-old who led the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final only to fall to the Dallas Stars in 6 games. If it’s not Buffalo, there would likely be a host of teams that may come knocking, making him a very likely candidate to be gone after this season.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore