Penguins News & Rumors: Breaking Up the Core, Firing Hextall & More

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where we cover all the hot topics and dive into more than just box scores. There’s been some serious buzz surrounding the Penguins as the team cleans out their things from the arena, leaving with disappointment after a tough seven-game series with the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh is in line for one of their most intriguing offseasons in franchise history, let’s take a closer look at what to expect.

Penguins Core Likely Breaking Up

There’s no doubt about it, management is playing hardball and there seems to be a serious disconnect between the players and the vision of general manager Ron Hextall. Reports surfaced earlier this week, stating there were midseason contract offers made to both Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, but unfortunately talks when absolutely nowhere.

If Rossi’s report is indeed true, those contract offers are pathetic for two players who have not only done so much for the franchise but are also low-ball offers based on their skill set and performance levels. Why would Hextall think he could just bully negotiations like this?

Related: 3 Pittsburgh Penguins Not Expected Back in 2022-23

It’s obvious the trio of Letang, Malkin, and Sidney Crosby want to play together for their entire career, and they should be given that right at market value. It’s a tough look for management when news like this drops and it certainly doesn’t help the team’s reputation when it comes to other players on the open market.

Crosby, Malkin and Letang all spoke to the media earlier this week and they all confirmed they want to play three-to-four more seasons in the NHL and prefer to do it together. Let’s just hope for Penguins fans’ sake, that the new ownership group doesn’t influence the hand of Hextall in any way or else this really could be the end for the legendary trio.

Report Has Penguins General Manager on the Hot Seat

Well, this didn’t take long, as reports have surfaced that the Penguins’ majority ownership group, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) is closely watching what Hextall has up his sleeve this summer after getting bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

According to Jeff Hathhorn of 93.7 the Fan, FSG is evaluating all aspects of the franchise since their take over and this includes the future of Hextall with the team. Sounds like this offseason could turn into a bit of a circus in Pittsburgh.

Penguins Have Other Free Agents Waiting on New Deals

While most of the attention is on Letang and Malkin hitting the open market, and rightfully so, the Penguins also have a trio of forwards who need contracts for next season and beyond. Bryan Rust, Rickard Rakell, and Evan Rodrigues are pending unrestricted free agents and on July 13, will have a chance to sign with any team they choose.

There certainly won’t be enough money to go around for everyone as Pittsburgh is projected to have just over $29 million in salary-cap space. Rust is expected to receive some hefty offers as the first-line right-winger has turned himself into a consistent goal scorer for the team’s top-six. Personally, I could see Rust being a fit for the Detroit Red Wings, as the Michigan native could be a nice piece for Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman to bring into his young group.

As for Rakell, it feels like he will be a priority to management because of the package Hextall sent to the Anaheim Ducks and now why would he want to see the player walk just a couple of months later. If it was solely up to the player, the veteran forward would want to stick around his new teammates:

The 29-year-old Rakell appeared in 19 games for the Penguins during the regular season and collected 13 points. He, unfortunately, battled injuries in the late stages and only suited up for two Stanley Cup Playoff games. If, say, Rust leaves, Rakell could have a prime opportunity to play first-line minutes with Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

As for Rodrigues, he is the least paid of the three as the late bloomer was only making $1 million against the cap this season. The 28-year-old recorded a career-high 19 goals and 43 points in 2021-22. “E-Rod” also showed up when it mattered most and chipped in with five more points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“We’ll see where the summer takes us” doesn’t sound very promising but there’s no doubt Rodrigues prefers to re-sign in Pittsburgh. There are likely to be some interesting offers headed his way this summer, so look for the Toronto, ON native to sign the longest deal possible to ensure some job security.

Penguins Legend Continues to Be Linked to Return

While Casey DeSmith and Louis Domingue did an admirable job filling in for starter Tristan Jarry, Jarry may have a new running mate next season. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned recently on a television broadcast that he felt there’s a very good chance Marc-Andre Fleury returns to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild
Marc-Andre Fleury, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Personally, it would be hard to see both Malkin and Letang leave, and Fleury come back and it certainly feels like ‘The Flower’ will only return should both of those legends be in the building. Seeing the entire band back together would pull on the heartstrings of many. Now fans will all wait and see what kind of music management prefers this summer.

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