Penguins' Jake Guentzel to miss start of season following ankle surgery

The Pittsburgh Penguins are expecting a lengthy absence for one of their most reliable offensive players.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' quest to return to the postseason after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 last season just took a hit.

The team announced that winger Jake Guentzel has undergone ankle surgery and will be re-evaluated in 12 weeks.

"As Jake continued to increase the intensity of his preparation for the upcoming season, it was apparent that his ankle injury was not resolving in a way that was satisfactory to he or the Penguins," general manager Kyle Dubas said in a press release. "It was decided that surgery would be the best way to ensure Jake would be at his best in 2023-2024."

Guentzel was coming off a productive campaign for the Penguins, ranking third on the team in scoring with 73 points — and skating more than 20 minutes per night for the fourth consecutive season.

Jake Guentzel headshot
Jake Guentzel
LW - CAR - #59
2022 - 2023 season

The 28-year-old had been a mainstay on Sidney Crosby's left flank in recent years, and over the last two seasons his 157 points ranked 26th in the NHL.

Without Guentzel, the Penguins will be even more reliant on star centres Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to drive their offence, and they'll need to find a new linemate for Crosby for the foreseeable future.

Jake Guentzel will miss the beginning of the 2023-24 season. (Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jake Guentzel will miss the beginning of the 2023-24 season. (Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The departure of Jason Zucker in free agency makes that more difficult, but the team's acquisition of Reilly Smith could pay dividends while Guentzel is out. Mikael Granlund is another candidate to play alongside Crosby, as he has experience in prominent offensive roles, but he produced very little in 21 games after joining Pittsburgh midway through 2022-23.

Mikael Granlund headshot
Mikael Granlund
C - SJ - #64
With Pittsburgh

No matter who fills Guentzel's shoes, this is a tough blow for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins' offense ranked 16th in the NHL during the 2022-23 regular season, and their offseason moves don't seem likely to result in a major goal-scoring upgrade. The team's biggest deals were the re-signing of goaltender Tristan Jarry and the addition of defenseman Ryan Graves.

From Guentzel's perspective, this is difficult break for obvious reasons, but it's especially hard for a player who was set to hit free agency following the 2023-24 season. It's difficult to project how much time the winger will miss, but this injury is sure to affect the next contract he receives, whether it's from the Penguins or another team.