After the Pittsburgh Penguins were officially eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 7 of their series versus the New York Rangers, questions almost immediately turned to what happens with the core of the Penguins roster, one that has been together for over a decade. Did Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang play their last game together? Will all three veterans be returning for next season? There’s a pretty good chance the answer is no.
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As Malkin and Letang potentially become unrestricted free agents over the summer, it could be the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Dan Rosen of NHL.com writes that when Crosby was asked about his thoughts on the three of them ever playing another game in the same uniform and of the idea that this might be it, Crosby said, “I mean, it’s a possibility.” He added, “It’s not up to me, but obviously I’ve had a great experience playing with these guys over the years and know what they bring.” Crosby said.
Crosby has more time left on his current deal, but there is uncertainty about the Penguins offering Malkin another deal. At the age of 35, it could be a risk to give him any sort of deal with term on it. There’s also the need to prioritize other players and at some point, the Penguins will need to move on from the aging core.
Malkin Crosby Letang Penguins
Bryan Rust needs a new deal. He’s a pending UFA who just finished a deal that paid him $3.5 million per season. He had 24 goals and 58 points in 60 games. Meanwhile, Rickard Rakell is only 29 years old and was brought in as a rental at the NHL Trade Deadline. The Penguins might feel more comfortable investing a bit more term in him than Malkin. Evan Rodrigues had his ups and downs but he also scored close to 20 goals and is certainly worth more than the $1 million per season he was making.
Of course, the fact that the Penguins lost out will introduce the idea that change needs to be made. Whenever that happens, sacrifices are made.
Needless to say, some tough decisions are coming for the Penguins and there’s reason to believe this might have been the end of the line for the threesome who has been the face of this franchise for close to 15 years.
Goaltender Tristan Jarry was asked about how he’d feel if this was the last chapter for these three and noted, “It’s something you never want to think about.” He added:
“They’re generational players and Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have three of them for the last 15 years. The bond they created throughout the team and throughout management is something that is irreplaceable. It’s a business, but I think if they’re able to come back, they definitely will. There is a bond between them, and I think that’s unbreakable.”
ESPN.com’s Greg Wyshynski predicts only Letang will be back of the group of pending free agents.
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