Trying to have the oldest core in the league?
Big Three? Is it now a Big Four in Pittsburgh?
Despite 3/4’s of the group Ron Hextall now calls the ‘core’ being closer to 40 years old than 30, Hextall see’s no reason not to continue to build around Crosby, Malkin, Letang and now Jeff Carter………..
“We are excited about our group with Letang, Crosby, Malkin and Jeff Carter,” said Ron Hextall at his season ending zoom conference on Wednesday.
Hextall lumping Carter into the “core” talk was eye catching and during the presser Hextall also spoke of how after adding Carter he didn’t see any real weaknesses in the Penguins lineup.
There’s no question Carter ended up being a fantastic trade deadline addition, but set to turn 37 years old in January, the Penguins are taking quite the optimistic approach that Carter can steadily be an impact player at his age next season through a grueling 82 game season and based off the body of work Carter showed the last couple seasons.
In fact, there’s even wild talk that Hextall believes Carter has more than just one more season left in him and discussing an extension won’t be ruled out, sources say.
By the end of the 2021-2022 regular season Jeff Carter will be 37, Evgeni Malkin 35, Kris Letang 35, and Sidney Crosby 34.
“We see a future with this core,” said Hextall. “We had a good year. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core. I expect to have these guys back next year, for sure.”
Running it back with the aging core on Malkin and Letang’s final years of their contracts was always going to be the easiest route to take and likeliest. That’s not the surprise.
What’s a bit stunning is how much weight the new regime is putting in on the small sample of this season, which it really was with the shortened season when you only faced seven other teams. It’s a risky proposition to bank on when you have an aging core as they do that being a year older they’ll maintain or be better. It doesn’t often work that way.
“There’s a special drive to this group and chemistry we like,” said Hextall. “We do believe that we’ll do everything we can to try to get better this summer at every position. We’ll see what comes our way, but our goal next year is to come back, make the playoffs and hopefully go on a run.”
— There’s a sense inside the organization and around the league that the new regime is comfortable extending Kris Letang this summer if there’s a happy medium to be reached between the two sides. They don’t have the same comfort level with [hide] Evgeni Malkin, multiple sources say. There are serious concerns in the front office that Malkin’s body is just going to continue to break down. “He’s beat up,” a team source said.
If Malkin gets one this summer, it will be 100% driven by David Morehouse & Co, than the new regime being fully onboard. [/hide] Malkin and his agent JP Barry plan to approach the Penguins To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!
— Even if Jim Rutherford still remained a long-term believer in Tristan Jarry, that would have been a much different press conference from Rutherford than how Hextall handled Jarry’s postseason performance like he was some 18 year old rookie in just brushing Jarry’s poor play off like the Penguins have another 5-6 year Cup runs in them.
— Jake Guentzel produced this season at 33 goal, 83 point pace over 82 games. Last season Guentzel produced at a 90 point pace over 82 games. A former 40 goal scorer who turns 27 with three years left on his contract with a $7 million cap hit. Guentzel’s partial no trade list (12 teams) kicks in July 1, 2022. Guentzel will get you in a lot of discussions and it’s no secret around the league Hextall will be all ears on Guentzel in surveying the market. Fair or not, Guentzel’s a key asset the Penguins are evaluating of whether he’s more built for regular season hockey than playoff hockey, despite the great playoff success he had early in his career. Penguin management is said to be concerned To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!
— Pittsburgh will go 7-3-1 in the expansion draft after going 4-4-1 in 2017. Hextall admitted the Penguins will lose a ‘pretty good player’ but there’s nobody Hextall and the brain trust view as being worth keeping to have to make a side deal and give up a mid to high draft pick from the 2022 draft pool, a draft the Penguins hope to stock picks for.