The Pittsburgh Penguins could not build off their regular season and find success in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. While general manager Ron Hextall did what he could to upgrade the team during the season, the team has some needs they are looking to fill this offseason as they continue to evaluate the roster’s talent. One thing you can cross off the list, a trade involving the trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Hextall recently gave the core a vote of confidence that could certainly go a long way for the mood heading into next season.
This is music to the ears of the “Big 3,” as they weren’t shy once the team was eliminated as all three players were very stern with their messaging regarding their desire to retire together in Pittsburgh. Considering how many times Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke mentioned they would do whatever they can to upgrade the roster and win-now, moving one of the stars certainly would have contradicted the consistent messaging.
Penguins GM Not Shy About His Desires
While Hextall was busy making it known he’s not interested in ending an era; he was quick to point out the team does have some holes he’s looking to fill. The Penguins general manager provided some insight into his vision of the team’s offseason, which includes adding some size and toughness. The team tends to get pushed around and could use a little more nastiness, which could help them excel in the postseason. It won’t be easy to find players who possess talent, size and toughness, but Hextall is committed to doing whatever he can to upgrade those areas.
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Another hot topic of discussion for Hextall was goaltender Tristan Jarry, who the general manager pointed out is considered part of the core. The young netminder is still only 26-years-old and just completed his first season as a true #1 goalie in the league. After a stellar regular season, Jarry let in weak goals and made some horrible decisions with the puck at key points of the game. Regardless, Hextall sees a long-term future in Pittsburgh for the former second-round pick.
Where do the Penguins Go From Here?
With limited financial resources under the salary cap and several key players returning next season, the Penguins aren’t likely going to look drastically different next season. I had some fun yesterday evaluating a potential trade for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, but mega-deals like such are more so dreams than reality. Adding someone like Jones would provide the Penguins with size, talent and toughness, which is something Hextall would love to get his hands on.
Expect to see the Penguins add a veteran goaltender sometime this offseason who can push Jarry and provide some mentorship to the fragile netminder. The goalie market is setting itself up to be one of the hottest in years, and the Penguins will have their moments amongst it. The Penguins have 11 forwards under contract for next season, including essentially all of their top three lines, and besides, Cody Ceci has all their top-six defense group signed. This isn’t a time to rebuild and blow up the core; it’s a time to re-tool on the fly, upgrade deficiencies, and give your team a chance to execute when it matters most.
Hextall’s vote of confidence to the core should go a long way for the mood of the Penguins offseason. We can put the Malkin to Florida, the Crosby to the Avalanche and the Letang to Montreal rumors all to bed. All three will be given a chance to retire as Penguins, with Malkin and Letang’s new extensions expected to be announced before opening puck drop next season.
Penguins fans have been lucky the past 16 seasons since Crosby showed up via the draft lottery. Then came the Russian star in Malkin and the mobile defenseman in Letang. Three Stanley Cups later and a long list of individual accomplishments and franchise records, the trio deserves to finish what they started in Pittsburgh. The good news for them is their general manager feels the same way.