As long as the Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on their roster you know they are going to construct the roster around them with the goal of winning the Stanley Cup. That is why they are so willing to trade first-round draft picks, why they are so willing to trade prospects, why they are so willing to overpay free agents with too much term if it helps them in the short-term.
They want to maximize the years they still have with their two Hall Of Famers.
It is the only way for them to build. Anything less than that is a disservice to the players, the fans, and the organization.
Having said that, as Crosby and Malkin get into their mid-30s there is going to come a point where they are no longer able to carry the offense quite as much as they did during their prime. Now, this does not mean that they will cease to be productive or that they are going to be any kind of a drain on the roster. They will still continue to be the players that drive the bus and lead the offense, and they will continue to be legitimate top-line players. The greats do not stop producing points entirely just because they get a little older. They just may not be scoring champions.
If you look at the NHL’s history of scoring champions, and players that contend for scoring titles, they are almost always in their mid-20s or younger. It is rare — extremely rare — for a player to win a scoring title at age 30 or older.
This season Crosby will be 33 years old.
Malkin will be 34 years old.
Given the dominance of players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay, and David Pastrnak in Boston they seem like they are going to be the players at the top of the points leaderboard for the foreseeable future. They are dominant offensive players and in the right age range to win the scoring title.
But what about being in the top-10 of that race? Are Crosby and Malkin still capable of doing that?
This past season was the first time in nearly a decade that Crosby did not finish among the league’s top-10 scorers, and that was entirely due to injury limiting him.
Malkin has finished in the top-10 just once since 2011-12, again mostly due to injury shortened seasons.
The thing is, injury shortened seasons are the type of thing that can slow a player down at this age.
In the salary cap era there have only been 14 different players (on 26 different occasions) that have finished in the top-20 in scoring age 33 or older.
The only players to do it more than once have been Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Alfredsson, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Joe Thornton, Martin St. Louis (five times!), and Teemu Selanne (three times). St. Louis and Selanne are the only ones that have done it more than two times, and Ovechkin will probably join them here shortly.
Out of that group, only eight of them finished in the top-five, with only two (Martin St. Louis and Jaromir Jagr) finishing in the top-two. St. Louis is the only one that actually won a scoring title at that age during that stretch.
The good news is the players to finish that high in this context are either already Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, and Crosby and Malkin both fit that mold.
The whole point of this is to just set some sort of a realistic expectation here. They are going to be productive and they are going to carry the offense. But if their days as scoring champions are probably in the rear-view mirror and the best we might hope for at this point from them is a finish in the top-10, and most likely, the top-20 in the league. That is still great. It is still elite. It will still help drive the offense in a significant way.