The Pittsburgh Penguins have an incredible core. They have Sidney Crosby, already a hall-of-fame center, leading the first line with Evgeni Malkin centering the second. Not only that, but they also have an outstanding go-to defenseman with Kris Letang, who has no problem contributing offensively. As the years have progressed, however, these players have aged and their futures in Pittsburgh have been taken into question.
The Big Three’s Amazing Careers
The Penguins have been incredibly lucky to have the core they’ve had. Crosby is a household name in the hockey community. If anybody has heard of the National Hockey League in the past 16 years, they’ve likely heard the name Sidney Crosby. Not only do they have Crosby, but they have Malkin leading the second line. His elite goal-scoring has been paramount to the Penguins for years. Letang, able to play solid shut-down defense, also greatly contributes offensively, making Pittsburgh that much better.
Between the three players, almost every single trophy there is to win has been won. Both Crosby and Malkin have won Art Ross Trophies, Ted Lindsay Awards, Hart Memorial Trophies and Conn Smythe Trophies. Letang unfortunately hasn’t won a James Norris Memorial Trophy as best defenseman in the NHL, but overall, these players have captured the most coveted prize of all: the Stanley Cup. They didn’t do it once nor twice, but three times in less than 10 years.
As the years have progressed, their quality of play has been called into question. Crosby has remained solid and he still does things that most other players simply can’t do. He has been a point-per-game player in quite literally every single season that he has played. Crosby is also underrated when it comes to his defensive play. Looking back at Pittsburgh’s recent playoff run, where they were unfortunately eliminated by the New York Islanders, there were numerous shots that would’ve gone in if Crosby weren’t there to stop it. There’s no question that Crosby will forever remain a Penguin.
Then there’s the cases of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. Both Letang and Malkin have seen some deterioration in their play. To start, both players seem to be constantly injured. Just this season, Malkin missed 23 games this season just to come back halfway through the playoff series and get injured once more. He also seems to have a lot less urgency on the ice. Every now and then, Malkin could make a questionable play and then nonchalantly skate back with no hurry. Letang could also be lumped into this category at times. For these reasons, fans have called for both of these players to be traded. So what does their future look like?
Are they here to stay?
Despite fans having a love-hate relationship with Malkin and Letang, the “Big Three” aren’t going anywhere. Letang mentioned in a statement in the recent weeks stating that he, Malkin and Crosby do not intend to go anywhere. They wish to remain Penguins and end their careers where they began. General Manager Ron Hextall seems to agree.
Contract extensions for Letang and Malkin have already been discussed with Hextall. Despite them not being as young as they once were, the Penguins’ organization wants to keep the core intact. Hextall said because these players are still competing at a high level, the Penguins will remain in a “win-now” mode. Although they may be in a win-now mode, they do have to think about the future. Malkin will be 35 when the next season starts, and both Letang and Crosby will be 34. Their window for another miraculous Stanley Cup run may be closing soon, so the Penguins have to muster everything they have left to make sure it happens.