If Elliotte Friedman is a betting man, he’s banking on 2 of the 3 centerpieces of the Penguins roster remaining in the black and gold for next season.
We’re less than a week removed from the Penguins being ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and per the usual reaction, many want or expect heads to roll when failures are the result.
As has been the case for the past several postseasons where the Penguins fell short of their goals, the annual discussion of ‘What are the Penguins going to do about Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin?” comes up.
This year, that seems to be on the end of things closer to being squashed than it does on the end of picking up steam. Elliotte Friedman mentioned the topic in his weekly 31 Thoughts piece.
6. I’m betting that Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are back, too. The playoff loss is still very fresh, but my sense is the Penguins see themselves as a good team that didn’t get the necessary goaltending. That will be their upgrade, finding either a veteran to play with Tristan Jarry or a new No. 1.
This is good news for anyone with common sense and someone who isn’t make overreactive decisions — which is something that Ron Hextall fits the bill on, in both cases.
The Penguins had a very good team this season, particularly down the stretch, and without sweeping changes, can bring back a near similar roster for the 2021-22 season.
Friedman is correct that goaltending was THE problem for the Penguins in their first-round series, not A problem or even part of the problem. Average goaltending more than likely gets the Penguins into the 2nd round.
From a roster replacement standpoint, if the team did want to move on from either player, cap space could be opened, with Letang heading into the final season his contract ($7.25M AAV), and Malkin heading into the final season of his contract ($9.5M AAV).
The problem, should the team decide to move on from either, is that as a result, you no longer have Kris Letang or Evgeni Malkin on the roster. This has been the factual and realistic counterpoint over the years for those wanting to trade one or the other, and it applies here as it always has.
Common sense generally should prevail, and it seems that’s going to be the case here, as well.
Whatever Malkin or Letang choose to do at the end of next season when their contracts are up for renewal should be up to them, whether that involves staying in Pittsburgh or not. Both players have earned their respective rights to make those decisions.