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Penguins GM Hextall Says FSG Owners on Board with Offseason Plans

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin

CRANBERRY — There was a little drama with the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. Multiple reports indicated the Fenway Sports Group was evaluating GM Ron Hextall and Penguins management to determine their suitability and critique their plans for the next step after the Penguins lost their fourth straight opening playoff series last Sunday in New York.

Hextall met with media on Monday afternoon to put the disappointing final bow on the 2021-22 season, which was full of surprising performances, absences, but ultimately Round One disappointment, again.

Hextall pinned down Bryan Rust on Saturday. While Hextall did not specifically say Rust was his top target, the timing of the signing before both Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin spoke loudly.

Perhaps knowing the percolating questions about his job security, Hextall mentioned multiple times that he’s been in touch with the Penguins’ new ownership group, which is not quite the singularly invested mom-and-pop shop that the Lemieux Group was. And Hextall confirmed the new folks signing the checks are on board with the Penguins’ offseason plans.

Obviously, in the end, you’ve got to get it done. So our plan is to continue on–trying to win the Stanley Cup. FSG group is totally on board, the management team and coaches are on board. So signing Rusty, he’s a very good player. He’s an important piece of our team. He plays a lot with Sid or Geno,” Hextall said. “He can move up and down your lineup and kill penalties play in the power play. So that was an important signing for us for sure.”

Rust had 58 points in 60 games this season, which was a career-high. He was part of the Penguins’ typically dominant topline, which was responsible for more than 40% of the Penguins’ 5v5 offensive output.

The questions were asked. In every way possible. However, Hextall couldn’t commit to much of the Penguins’ offseason plan beyond his desire to sign Malkin and Letang and the obvious salary cap impediments.

When asked what he thought his team needed a bit more of this season, he quipped, “salary cap space!”

The Fenway Group remains a somewhat unknown commodity. There was little doubt where Mario Lemieux’s heart rested. But John Henry and Fenway didn’t raise Sidney Crosby from an 18-year-old houseguest with the weight of a franchise on his shoulders, nor did Fenway play its entire career for an organization and recognize the uniquely significant achievement of playing an entire career for one team.

Pittsburgh Penguins Ownership

FSG doesn’t have the burden of those loyalties to Letang and Malkin, but any wonder about FSG hedging on Hextall seems to be put to rest.

“We’re moving forward here, trying to be as good as we can, be a contender. So everything’s good. They’re totally committed to winning, as are we as a management group and coaching staff,” reaffirmed Hextall. “So we’re just going to move along with the summer. We’ve got some things that we’re looking to add to staff. So we’re moving along. And as I said, the communication with the Fenway Group is good.”

As much as Hextall wants to re-sign the other members of his core, it does appear unlikely unless he gets some help from the players. After signing Rust, the PHN Penguins salary cap examination shows the Penguins have just under $24 million to spend and more than six roster spots to fill.

“…We have had discussions very recently. And will continue to have those discussions. We would like to sign both (Letang and Malkin),” said Hextall. “I think if you look at them individually, they’ve both been here 16 years. I mean, Geno’s obviously been a great player, certainly one of the best players in the history of the game. And we’d like to keep him with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the rest of his career. In a perfect world, Geno retires as a Penguin. And I think Tanger is the same.”

It will be a juggling act and Hextall sidestepped a question about replacing Malkin with an in-house candidate, though he indicated they would go outside for a replacement but firmly repeated that he didn’t want to discuss that idea because signing Malkin is the priority.

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Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago

“signing Malkin is the priority”… well, at least we know where this is headed.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

Just what I feared — Fenway Sports knows less about hockey than it does baseball, which isn’t a whole helluva lot. If I were a season ticket holder, I would cancel my order if Malkin and Letang are resigned and the other spots are filled by a bunch of jamokes.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Although I agree with you, I think most fans want these guys back, and maybe, making the playoffs for 1 round is financially better than being out for years. Not to mention full houses as opposed to half houses.

Phil
Phil
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Man, you truly have no idea what your talking about. Fenway group rejuvenated the Boston red Sox. Ending an 86 year curse and winning several championships since. 04,07,13,18. So your wrong with that statement lol. And yes I want malkin and letang back both are elite players. And deserve appreciation for the things they have done and continue to do for this franchise. And its ridiculous everytime the fan base blames those two players. Shows you know nothing about hockey. 100 pt season. And 16th straight playoff appearances. And instead of everyone appreciating how good this team is. Everyone is… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Phil
Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil

Spot on. Although I feel like maybe Hextall may be just giving fans lip service in the event that both guys sign elsewhere. I hope I am wrong, but as soon as they hit the free agent market they are as good as gone. There is more than a month before that happens so there is still time.

moe
moe
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil

You said he man, perfect response. appreciate what they have accomplished, 3 cups in last 16 years of playoff hockey, wow.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  moe

This has nothing to do with the past. It’s all about the present and future. Or at least it should be.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil

Actually, the Red Sox haven’t done much since the 2018 season. That’s a long time ago in sports years. Their best season was 2021, when the Astros outscored them 23-3 in the final three games of the ALCS. Currently, they are in fourth place, 9 1/2 games behind the Yankees, five games behind the Rays (the Rays?!). And chances are that they’ll unload their best player (Bogaerts) before long, much like they did Betts before him. #DoYourHomework

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
ric jefferies
ric jefferies
1 month ago

how about seeing good hockey played, the pens are not consistent as to how they play on either side of the puck except for the few usual ”suspects”. To me malkin and letang are not team players both are not sure “what they want to be when the grow-up” and for the penguins in general. time to rebuild from the bottom to the top.

forestx5
forestx5
1 month ago

Malkin has played about 56% of the games over the previous 3 years. While he has averaged over a point per game, you can’t count on him to be in the lineup. Give him a contract that pays him per game, with incentives. Play Kapanen at center and let him dictate to his linemates, rather than having him try to understand what Malkin is going to do next.

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