Grading Jake Guentzel blockbuster trade between Penguins, Hurricanes

The Jake Guentzel trade grades are in.

The Carolina Hurricanes tried a few times to make a big splash. It took until the night before the NHL Trade Deadline this year to finally get it done. Carolina swung a massive trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night to acquire star winger Jake Guentzel. With the deal now official, let’s hand out NHL trade grades to both teams.

Full trade

The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired forward Jake Guentzel and defenseman Ty Smith from the Pittsburgh Penguins. In return, Pittsburgh acquires forwards Michael Bunting, Vasili Ponomarev, Cruz Lucius, and Ville Koivunen as well as a conditional second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick.

If the Hurricanes make the Stanley Cup Final, Pittsburgh will receive Carolina’s 2024 first-round pick, according to CapFriendly. An early playoff exit for the Hurricanes means the Penguins would get their 2024 second-round pick. If Carolina wins the Stanley Cup, they receive the conditional fifth-round pick. Carolina failing to win the Cup means the Penguins don’t receive the extra pick.

Hurricanes trade for Jake Guentzel

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jake Guentzel (59) looks on at the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes have made runs at major trade candidates for a while now. In fact, they reportedly made a serious push for Vancouver Canucks star Elias Pettersson. Pettersson ended up signing an eight-year contract extension with the Canucks. But that failure did not stop the Hurricanes in the slightest.

Guentzel is a bit of a departure from Carolina’s desired sort of trade. They usually don’t like giving up premium assets for rental players. However, adding the Nebraska native is a huge move for them. He is exactly what Carolina needs at this time: a legitimate scoring option in their top six.

Picking up Ty Smith in this deal is also a nice move. He has nine goals and 34 points in 53 AHL games this season The former first-round pick will remain with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, as the Hurricanes have no AHL affiliate. But he provides Carolina with a solid depth option with some upside.

The Hurricanes acquired a player that fits exactly what they need at the NHL Trade Deadline. And they didn’t give up any of their highly coveted top-five prospects to get it done. They may not even give up a first-round pick, though if they do, it means they went to the Stanley Cup Final. In the end, Carolina is more than okay with what they gave up here.

Penguins trade Jake Guentzel

On one hand, the Penguins needed to add depth to their prospect pipeline. And they didn’t do terribly in that regard. Ponomarev has already played a few games in the NHL. He is also producing at a respectable rate in the AHL. Koivunen is producing nearly a point per game in the top league in Finland. Lucius has produced a point-per-game for the University of Wisconsin in each of the last two seasons.

However, none of these players are currently projected to be major difference makers at the NHL level. That certainly can change, as these players are just getting started. What cannot be as easily justified is the condition on the second-round pick. There is a non-zero chance the Penguins won’t receive a first-round pick for Jake Guentzel.

The Hurricanes certainly can win the Stanley Cup this year, especially after this trade. However, Pittsburgh shouldn’t bank on that happening to receive a first-round pick. A first-round pick should have been a prerequisite for any Guentzel trade, even if he is a free agent at the end of the season.

I like the prospects Pittsburgh received from the Hurricanes. However, this is still an underwhelming return for the Penguins. This was their first trade as a seller in nearly 20 years. And to be frank, they could have done a lot better in this deal.

Grades and final thoughts

The Hurricanes receive high marks for their part in the Jake Guentzel trade. Carolina added a player that fits their most pressing need and a quality depth piece. And they didn’t give up as much as expected in order to do so. The Penguins, meanwhile, receive an average grade. Pittsburgh received some prospects who could play a role at the next level. But those prospects don’t appear to be future stars, and they may not even get a first-round pick in this deal. Those facts drag their grade down here.

Carolina Hurricanes grade: A+

Pittsburgh Penguins grade: C

Tristin McKinstry_headshot

About the Author

Associate Editor at ClutchPoints. Tristin has experience writing at various sports blog/websites dating back to 2014. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communications.

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