May 26th, 2024

Playoff-less Penguins want to sign up Sidney Crosby long-term. Might be easy part of busy offseason

By The Associated Press on April 19, 2024.

PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Penguins eventually became the team Kyle Dubas envisioned in his first season as the club’s general manager/director of hockey operations.

That evolution, however, came a touch too late for Sidney Crosby and company to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s spirited 8-2-3 closing kick left it outside of the postseason looking in for a second straight year.

That’s simply not good enough, and Dubas knows it.

“When things don’t turn out well, that falls on the person in my spot,” Dubas said Friday. “I take responsibility. It’s my job to make sure we have the right people on staff to get us where we want to go.”

The Penguins were undone by the NHL’s 31st-ranked power play and five months of inconsistency. With the team languishing in the standings in early March, Dubas opted to trade Stanley Cup-winning forward Jake Guentzel. Pittsburgh fell flat in the immediate aftermath, putting the Penguins in a hole they couldn’t climb out of in time.

“If we had shaken the doldrums a little bit earlier, we may have been in a different position,” Dubas said.

Instead, the playoffs will begin on Saturday without the Penguins, a postseason fixture from 2007-22. Dubas now faces a long summer trying to figure out how to surround the core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson with enough talent to close the gap.

One of the first items on Dubas’ to-do list is locking up Crosby. The future Hall of Famer is eligible for an extension starting July 1. Dubas has made it clear there are no plans to move on from Crosby, though he declined to get into specifics about what a new deal might look like.

“I think he should finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dubas said Friday. “How long that is? I’m not going to put any limits on Sidney Crosby. He’s capable of great things and is still performing at an extraordinarily high level.”

It certainly looks that way. Crosby scored 42 goals – his highest since 2016 – and added 52 assists to average at least a point a game for the 19th straight season. It tied Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky for the longest streak of point-a-game production in NHL history.

The franchise icon turns 37 in August. While Crosby says he still takes things “year to year,” he showed no significant signs of slowing down but was vague when asked how much longer he might play.

“Obviously, at my age, and things like that, there will be a lot of factors,” Crosby said. “But as far as my game, I don’t look any differently at how much longer I can play based off that. It’s always just evaluating my game for what it is, not my age.”

Crosby is set to enter the final season of the 12-year, $104.4 million contract he signed in the summer of 2012, a bargain for one of the greatest all-around players in league history. Crosby isn’t so concerned about money as making a run at a fourth Stanley Cup.

The Penguins haven’t advanced past the first round since 2018. It’s a fact that’s painfully clear to Crosby, Dubas and others in the organization.

While veteran center Jeff Carter is retiring after 20 seasons, there’s a strong chance most of the pieces around Crosby will remain the same. Letang – who spent all season dealing with an undisclosed injury – figures to be back. Malkin and Karlsson are expected back, too.

The biggest question may be in goal. The Penguins signed Tristan Jarry to a five-year deal last summer, only to have Jarry spend the season’s final weeks watching from the bench while backup Alex Nedeljkovic made 13 straight starts. Nedeljkovic is set to become a free agent, though he’s stated his desire to stay. Joel Blomqvist is finishing up a promising season with Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League affiliate and at 22 may be ready to move up.

Still, Dubas expressed optimism that Jarry – whose six shutouts tied for the NHL lead – will find a way to bounce back.

“I’m excited to see how Tristan responds,” he said.

Dubas is optimistic young forwards Vasily Ponomarev and Ville Koivunen, whom the club received from Carolina the Guentzel trade, will push for a roster spot. The same goes for former first-round pick Sam Poulin, who was called up late in the season only to battle an illness that limited his playing time.

Regardless of who is on the roster when Pittsburgh reports for training camp in September, the Penguins know watching the Stanley Cup playoffs go on without them can’t become the norm.

“Hopefully, this is something that having gone through this year will make us better,” Crosby said.



Share this story:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments