Penguins News & Rumors: Hextall Blasted by Clarke, Malkin & More

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where we cover all the hot topics about the club and dive into more than just box scores. Get ready for some rapid-fire headlines that will run us through all the noise surrounding Pittsburgh’s beloved Penguins.

Bobby Clarke Let Loose on Ron Hextall’s Draft History

An interesting story has taken off on Tuesday as long-time Philadelphia Flyers executive Bobby Clarke opened up about the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and confirmed that nobody in the organization wanted to draft Nolan Patrick second overall and that it was strictly Ron Hextall’s decision.

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Clarke was a guest on the Cam and Strick Podcast and didn’t hold back, throwing Hextall under the bus for multiple things and even blaming him for their struggles this season. The Penguins general manager was an executive with the Flyers from 2014-2018 and was fired one month into the 2018-19 season. He then went on to work for the Los Angeles Kings and then, of course, made his way to Pittsburgh once Jim Rutherford resigned. Here’s what Clarke had to say about the Flyers missing out on Cale Makar because of someone’s bad decision making:

Needless to say this isn’t a feud that’s over and I would expect Hextall addresses it very briefly at some point this week. It’s not often you get thrown under the bus about draft selections three years after the fact and while you’re working for another team.

Penguins GM Opens up About Rebuilding vs. Cup Runs

Hextall recently spoke with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and opened up about his first year with the franchise. It’s almost been a full calendar year since his arrival, and considering everything that’s gone on in Pittsburgh, it’s been a rather successful tenure that looks to be only getting better.

Hextall was very honest about his love for the team and their group, referenced the character of the roster numerous times and made a point to LeBrun about how no one should ever bet against Sidney Crosby. Penguins fans know when you have Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on the roster, there’s a chance to win the Stanley Cup and that’s certainly the goal this season.

Kris Letang #58, Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71
Expect to see the Penguins big-three together for years to come in Pittsburgh
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the things that caught me by surprise was Hextall commented on the future of Letang and Malkin and how the contract extensions wouldn’t be negotiated publicly but the kicker being they are extensions that could get finalized before the end of the season. It seemed like this was certainly going to be saved for the offseason but Hextall made mention he’s open to striking deals in-season.

Malkin Appears Set to Return in Anaheim

After a full practice participating in both the line rushes and getting reps on the first power play, it appears the Penguins will be welcoming back Malkin to the lineup vs. the Anaheim Ducks. It’s been a long journey since offseason knee surgery and he says he’s ready to go and his knee has never felt stronger.

There’s no doubt Malkin makes the team better when he’s in the lineup and any report you see about him disrupting the chemistry of the group should be thrown in the garbage. The Penguins are a better team with their long-time cornerstone center in the lineup and given the performance of Evan Rodrigues this season, it’s going to be fun to watch the second line go to work for Pittsburgh. Another x-factor is the chemistry Malkin had with Kasperi Kapanen from last season. Needless to say it’s going to be hard work for head coach Mike Sullivan to assemble the best possible lineup when everyone is healthy and back from COVID protocols. Oh, the fun problems to have as a coach.

The Penguins begin their west coast trip on Tuesday night against the Ducks and then face-off against the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks later this week. You might want to mix in a coffee after dinner to help stay awake for the action. If not, ensure to follow along here at The Hockey Writers and we’ll certainly do our best to keep you as up to date as possible.

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