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Contracts, Injuries & Laughs: Penguins News & Quotables from Break-Up Day



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

Breaking up is hard to do. Less than 48 hours after the Pittsburgh Penguins season abruptly ended with an OT loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7, the players did their annual duty to report to the UPMC Lemieux Complex for their exit meetings, media chats, and summer goodbyes. It’s like the last day of school, but with the burden of failing the last test.

A bevy of players stepped forward to speak. In the COVID world, we no longer run around the locker room grabbing quick quotes and shaking hands. The players march across the rink to our little media room. The personal chats and quick jokes aren’t as readily available, though Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust, and Casey DeSmith managed to give a few smiles.

We’ll be doing in-depth personal stories and offseason analysis, but here are some highlights from Tuesday.

You can view all the raw videos on the Pittsburgh Hockey Now YouTube channel. Make sure to follow for live chats, analysis, and draft coverage.

The headline news: Sidney Crosby was not cleared to play in Game 6. The multitude of PHN staff has several sources who firmly denied that report. Head coach Mike Sullivan called it false. And Sidney Crosby explained the process and timeline of getting approved on Sunday morning after the morning skate.

Also, Kris Letang said of his contract, “Me and Hexy (Hextall), we were clear to each other that we were not mentioning anything to anyone, so it stays between the team and me.”

Evgeni Malkin walked back his “I’m a rich guy” comment when he smirked and said, “I’m not going to play for $1 million.”

It was an illuminating day. If you really want to form your own opinion, check out the videos and see if you come to the same conclusion as I did.

Pittsburgh Penguins Highlights:

Byran Rust:

Rust had the most honest answer regarding his contract status and future.

“I’m not looking to rob anyone,” Rust smiled. “I just want what is fair, a reasonable contract…I’d like to think something will get worked out here.”

Rust seemed to hint at a hometown discount but acknowledged the reality.

“I feel like I’ve outperformed my contract over the last couple of years,” Rust said.

At $3.5 million for a guy who can produce that offense, it’s hard to argue.

Jason Zucker:

Zucker and Rust played together in the U.S. juniors program and have been reunited with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I’ve been telling (Bryan Rust) his whole career that he had zero talent, zero skill,” Zucker laughed.

Zucker’s health was a constant problem this season. He felt he couldn’t get ahead of the issues. Zucker might have surgery this offseason. It’s on the table.

“There was no wrongdoing on my part, our trainers, our medical staff, or our strength coaches. You should see the whiteboard they have trying to figure out some sort of algorithm to keep me on the ice. It was a crazy year with that. We truly were, you know, grinding every day, trying to stay healthy.”

Casey DeSmith

DeSmith pulled himself out of Game 1 in double OT.

“I had been dealing with a little bit of a groin issue for about a month and a half. And I think it was just the nature of double overtime and the fatigue and stuff like that. But I made a movement and just felt my whole hip and groin just kind of all go at once. So yeah, it was a pretty easy decision to pull myself out of the game, considering I couldn’t really move or go down or anything like that, and I knew it was pretty much done for me at that point,” DeSmith said.

I thought you might like this quote about the aftermath of Game 1, though:

“No, I didn’t have any of the spicy pork and broccoli. I was going into (the locker room) after the Game 1 win and seeing how happy everyone was and especially Louis being able to come in there and do what he did in Game 1–that definitely made the injury hurt a lot less.”

Kasperi Kapanen

We’ll get into Kapanen. Watch his video–he was sullen. Heartbroken. But he lit up when asked about Evgeni Malkin.

“Yeah, I love this guy. I don’t know what else to tell you. You never know what you’re going to get from him at practice. He’s a funny guy, very relaxed. But, man, can this guy play hockey–it’s the confidence level. Obviously, he’s been around for a long time. He’s just an absolute monster out there. So I’d love to play with him again.”

Sidney Crosby:

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain said a few things. The deeper discussions we’ll have. He doesn’t expect management to ask about keeping Letang or Malkin, and they know he would love to keep them, “I wouldn’t be telling them anything they’re surprised to hear.”

Crosby confirmed he was not cleared for Game 6. And…he cracked up when he heard Letang wants to play for 4-5 more years, though Crosby would only commit to three more, for sure.

“Yeah. I mean three, three for sure. And then we’ll see after that. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but three definitely. So glad to hear that Geno said three…And Tanger said five-plus? Probably so. Not surprised at either of those answers. Those are pretty much par for the course right there.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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1 month ago

Stick tap to DeSmith, the best goalie on the team this calendar year. He showed a lot of testosterone to play at a high level with an injury for six weeks. Too bad he went down in the playoffs, or his team would still be in the hunt. I hope the guy is healthy enough to get a fair shake somewhere else next season.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
1 month ago

Dump Malkin, resign Rust, make Letang a reasonable offer that he’ll probably refuse. #JustDoIt

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Sign Rakell too.

1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

I’m in for that at the right price.

1 month ago

It’s become necessary to destroy the town in order to save it…when you re-paint a house it looks ugly for a week before beauty emerges… Give Letang his blessing and send him on his way… Hold the line on Geno @ $5MM Sign Rusty and Rakell… Get a better back-up who will be a Big Brother to Jarry… Wave bye bye to Erod…something about watching him play reminds me of that dark period of Morozov, Souvoy and Ramzi Abib?>Abid?… Sign Heinen and marry him to Blueger and MCGinn and hope they gel…and I know this will be unpopular but if… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Bachinga
Mary Lurwick
Mary Lurwick
1 month ago
Reply to  Bachinga

I agree with trying to get ZAR to return in free agency, our PK and Teddy weren’t the same without him. Like Sully said earlier this season, the sum of that line was greater than each player separately. Definitely like Rakell joining the team but giving up ZAR hurt us.
Guess we just wait to see what happens. LGP!

1 month ago
Reply to  Bachinga

I’d like to know why that analysis was down voted…seriously…

Last edited 1 month ago by Bachinga

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