If it wasn’t already apparent, the 2022 offseason is going to be full of uncertainty for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chief among those uncertainties is what the future holds for a group of star players.
While Sidney Crosby remains under contract for another three seasons, both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are due for new deals this summer.
As the Penguins players clean out their lockers, Crosby, Malkin, and Letang were all asked about the future of the core in Pittsburgh.
All three expressed their interest in keeping the core together, but they also understand that the NHL can be a harsh business sometimes.
“It’s not something that can happen forever,” Crosby said at his exit interview. “But hopefully for a little longer.”
When asked if he thinks general manager Ron Hextall or president of hockey operations Brian Burke will discuss the futures of Malkin and Letang, Crosby said it’s not his job and isn’t usually one to influence the roster.
"Everybody knows how I feel about my teammates," Crosby said. "I think the fact that we had a pretty decent season, obviously, would have liked to continue to play. ... But the fact that we didn't play well, I think that speaks for itself. There's a lot of things that have to be balanced, and I understand that. But I wouldn't think I'd be telling them anything that they'd be surprised to hear. But it's not something that they necessarily have to ask me about anyway. I don't think I've ever been one to really try to influence the roster. I think guy's games speak for themselves. And I think especially with Tanger and Geno, what they've done and what they continue to do speaks for itself, too. So those are decisions that management have to make."
Crosby is safe since he has a contract through 2025 and is still a top player in the league, but his long-time teammates are in a different boat.
Malkin said in his exit interview that he hopes to retire a Penguins, but understands the business side of things.
“I understand it’s a business,” Malkin said. “I love this city, I love these fans so much. But if the team wants young blood… says ‘you should move on,’ I’m fine.”
Earlier in the season, Malkin did say that he is willing to take a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh, but with a new ownership group at the top, nothing is certain.
When talking about Crosby and Letang specifically, Malkin referred to them as his brothers.
“It’s amazing. They are like my two brothers,” Malkin said. “It’s not just hockey, it’s life.”
Letang took a more strategic approach to the final media day, saying that his contract talks will remain private.
“Me and [Hextall] were clear that we were not mentioning anything to anyone,” Letang said. “It stays between me and the team.”
Despite the privacy of the matter, it is still Letang’s goal to remain in Pittsburgh.
The negotiations between Letang and the team may remain private, but the veteran defenseman believes he still has a lot of gas left in the tank.
"I feel really good," Letang said. "My body has been great for the last few years. I see myself for four or five more years, easily... Off-ice training is a big part of the player I am."
Letang said he feels he could play for another four to five years “easily.”
Four to five years is longer than the reported offers already given to him and Malkin, which sat at three.
It’s impossible to say at the moment if fans have seen the last of the big three in Pittsburgh, but each player has an interest in keeping the band together.
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