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Guentzel bracing for change: 'It's a lot of adjustments if you're traded'

Jake Guentzel Pittsburgh Penguins Jake Guentzel - The Canadian Press

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel is doing his best to keep his focus on the ice as he heads into the trade deadline with plenty of speculation about his future.

Guentzel was No. 3 on TSN’s Trade Bait Board as of Wednesday and is scheduled to become a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With the Penguins sitting seven points shy of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering play Thursday, team president Kyle Dubas indicated last week the Pens might want to move in a different direction.

“I think you tell yourself to focus on what you can control. That’s what I’m trying to do. But, yeah, that’s not always easy to do, right? Like, it’s not just about you and playing hockey. There’s your family. People become friends. There’s a community, you know?” Guentzel told The Athletic’s Rob Rossi.

“I’m fortunate — all of that has happened to me here. That’s made it feel like home.”

Guentzel told Rossi he’s bracing for a change in his lifestyle that extends far beyond hockey.

“It’s a lot more than you think it is,” Guentzel said. “It’s moving everything. You’re changing your whole lifestyle. You’re meeting a bunch of new people, and if you’ve got a family … it’s just a lot.

"It's a lot of adjustments if you're traded. And that's just from me seeing it happen for other guys."

Currently on long-term injured reserve and expected out past the March 8 trade deadline, it’s possible the 29-year-old winger has already played his last game as a Penguin. Guentzel skated for the first time since his upper-body injury on Feb. 14 earlier this week and initially received a recovery timeline of “up to four weeks.”

“I understand how valuable he’s been as a teammate, person in the community, contributor to helping the team win the Stanley Cup, and so on and so forth. It’s important,” Dubas told reporters.

“But at the same time, we have to take stock with where we’re at and be realistic about the fact that one of the issues we have is we need to get younger. We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed, some of them are some of the best players in the history of the franchise.

“It’s tough with Jake, as I’ve said to him, because he’s an excellent player and playing at an elite level. We have to find a way to continue to have those solid veteran guys, but also continue to get younger at the same time.”

ESPN’s Emily Kaplan wrote last Friday that one rival executive called the asking price for Guentzel “ridiculous.”

"I've heard the asking price on Guentzel is multiple first-round picks (or a first-round pick and equivalent in top prospects or roster players)," Kaplan wrote.

Guentzel has 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points this season and remains second on the Penguins in scoring despite missing the last two weeks.

He was selected in the third round (No. 77 overall) by Pittsburgh back in 2013 and sits eighth on the franchise’s all-time goals list (219).


Guentzel's recovery inching closer

While Guentzel cannot be activated from injured reserve until March 10, head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters he's making progress.

"It's a big step when they get on the ice," he said. "Just means they're that much closer."

Guentzel suffered his upper-body injury against the Florida Panthers two Wednesdays ago after a hit from Florida defenseman Niko Mikkola