In the past two weeks, it felt like the Penguins were on the cusp of a new era of hockey. Two of their franchise legends were UFA’s, and it wasn’t looking as if they’d both be back in black and gold next season.
Not only were the Penguins able to bring back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, but they also squeezed Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell in. And they did it all for roughly $22 million.
Social media seems split on the idea. Many are happy that the trio of Malkin, Letang, and Sidney Crosby will finish their careers together as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It wouldn’t have felt right if they went their separate ways.
However, some of the social media fan base believes the Penguins were in need of a change things up this offseason. Their four consecutive first-round exits were the final straw, and running it back with the same players couldn’t be the answer.
There isn’t any way that the Penguins could’ve let either Malkin or Letang walk and made themselves a better team. No available free agents would’ve filled those voids.
Spare me your talk about Vincent Trocheck and Andrew Copp. They’d be sufficient third-line centers and present a younger upgrade over Jeff Carter but not Malkin.
John Klingberg? Good luck getting the production out of him that Kris Letang provides to your organization.
It is cause for concern that Malkin and Letang are both on the wrong side of 35. But both are still very talented and can provide power play prowess and effective five-on-five play.
The buck doesn’t stop there. Rust and Rakell are returning players that will play a massive role for the Penguins. Rust has been a staple in the Penguins’ top-six for years now. He’ll likely start the season with Malkin while Rakell will slot into Crosby’s wing. But the two can certainly be interchangeable.
So what about all that is a bad thing?
If Danton Heinen and Evan Rodrigues weren’t going to get paid a more handsome amount than the Penguins would like to pay, I’d run it back with them too.
Let’s be honest here. What about this team did people not like? Sure, the Penguins went on a month long cold streak and looked like a team destined for a drubbing at the hands of the Ranger in the playoffs. Instead, the Penguins outplayed the Rangers and were an average goalie performance away from going to round two and facing Carolina.
Who knows what would’ve happened from there? If the Rangers could beat them, why couldn’t the Penguins?
This version of the Penguins isn’t a bad team. They have high-end scoring talent, and a few young players from the AHL-level graduate to the NHL this season to fill in some depth.
Besides, greed isn’t a great look. The Penguins have won three Cups with this core. The goal is always to win, but any additional playoff and championship success beyond what they’ve already achieved is icing on the cake.
Ron Hextall deserves his fair share of criticism to this point of his Penguins tenure. But he also deserves his fair share of credit for keeping the band together.
He even took it a step further by adding Jan Rutta, a heavier presence on the backend than the Penguins had this season. It’s no secret the Penguins were one of the worst teams in the league at clearing out the front of their net. Rutta will help with that.
Hextall’s next assignment will be to ship out a defenseman. Marcus Pettersson and John Marino seem like the likely candidates. Possibly even both. He’ll have to try and acquire talent to help the current version of the roster and move out some cap space to do it.
With 16 consecutive playoff appearances, the Penguins seem primed to make a 17th. Nothing should surprise anyone with the Penguins anymore.
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