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Penguins Notebook: Cautionary Tales for Crosby, Pens; Rookies Arrive

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

CRANBERRY, Twp. — Several reporters and talking head types had the same thought as July 1 and 2 passed. Where is the announcement that Sidney Crosby has signed a new contract and will be a Pittsburgh Penguin for life?

From Nick Kypreos and Chris Johnston to this writer, it seemed we simultaneously had the same recoil. As of July 6, nothing has been signed, but Crosby isn’t the only franchise superstar without a contract beyond the 2024-25 NHL season.

Edmonton Oilers cornerstone Leon Draisaitl is also without a deal. And, to a much lesser extent, Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs have not yet put pen to paper either.

The hockey world took note on Monday as Steven Stamkos left the only hockey home he’d ever known, disappointed and a lot insulted that the Tampa Bay Lightning discarded him, their captain and two-time Stanley Cup winner, in favor of signing Jake Guentzel to a more lucrative deal.

The 34-year-old Stamkos signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Nashville Predators.

It may have felt like a gut punch to Stamkos and many Lightning fans, but a funny thing happened for the remainder of July 1, at least through the publication of this story: the earth kept spinning.

The hockey world took notice, but it didn’t stop, either. In fact, Nashville swooped in and signed a pair of players who were beloved by their previous cities. One was original Misfit Jonathan Marchessault, who didn’t feel like the Vegas Golden Knights made much of an attempt to re-sign him despite his 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy award.

Over the last three years, Vegas has cast off its core Misfits one by one, beginning with Marc-Andre Fleury, who felt the organization and ownership betrayed him, then Vegas pawned off Reilly Smith to the Penguins for a third-round pick at the 2023 NHL Draft.

There are less than a handful of original Misfits remaining from the 2018 season as Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon has remodeled, retooled, and revamped his roster without sentiment or attachment.

It would be wrong to assume those situations occurred in a vacuum and deciding eyes haven’t noticed the problems the Penguins have brought upon themselves by contorting their salary cap structure to keep Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Former Penguins GM Ron Hextall factored loyalty and legacy in re-signing them, as well as exorcising incredibly poor judgment in structuring the contracts as essentially unbreakable 35+ deals.

Malkin or Letang could retire today, and the Penguins would not only owe them their full salary but because of the 35+ CBA rules meant to prevent teams from front-loading longer-term deals for older players that were never meant to be completed, the full cost for the full term would count against the Penguins’ salary cap, too.

It’s hard not to see the Penguins as a cautionary tale. Rather than paying Tuesday for a hamburger today, the team is paying both today and Tuesday (For my Gen Z friends, the hamburger reference was to Wimpy, a character in Popeye. Please don’t ask, “Who is Popeye?”).

Continuing upon the trend, perhaps the one-jersey career goal is just a little lessened. Will Draisaitl and Crosby electrify new fanbases or seek one team for life? Will their teams reciprocate with appropriate contracts, or will cold logic become contagious on all sides?

Penguins Rookies

It’s Day 1 of the Penguins Development Camp. It’s not exactly the most exciting as the Penguins’ skills coaches put them through skating workouts, and the boys get settled for an unusually long camp. This year, camp is five days, concluding with the scrimmages on Wednesday.

For anyone who showed up, there were three groups and a whole lot of this.

 

All of the Penguins’ 2024 picks are in attendance, as well as 2022 first-rounder Owen Pickering, who looks markedly different from the last two years. The young man now looks like a grown man. He reported that he has gained 14 pounds since last summer.

If you’re one of the lucky few who struggle to gain weight, one of the tricks the Penguins trainers and nutritionists taught Pickering was a daily shot of olive oil.

Pickering is eating six or seven meals per day, and the results are obvious. He’s suffered multiple injuries since being drafted and hasn’t been able to participate in or be 100% healthy for many of the Penguins’ camps since 2022. The massive growth spurts he underwent between 16 and 18 years old, which sprouted the defenseman from about 5-foot-7 to 6-foot-3, undoubtedly put extra stress on the teen’s body. But he’s 20 years old now and looks ready to turn pro.

Goalie Sergei Mirashov was among the other notable inclusions in addition to last week’s draft selections and 2023 first-round pick Brayden Yager. The Penguins will make him available to speak at some point during camp, and we’ll learn more about his intentions to stay or go back to the KHL.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now will have a full feature on Pickering and perhaps Murashov in the coming days.

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Thomas Tarka
Thomas Tarka
7 days ago

As an aside, the new Olive and Popeye comic is pretty fun: https://comicskingdom.com/olive-popeye/2023-02-07

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
7 days ago

I’ll say it again, Crosby isn’t going anywhere.

Pete
Pete
7 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I hope he chases the cup. He deserves better.

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
7 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Never said they aren’t talking about it. I also did not say that they weren’t talking through their butts. I left it implied that they are.

Dean
Dean
7 days ago

Dan, take a breath on Crosby. What is the rush? I would say the team has been a little busy. Crosby will be treated with the respect that he deserves and has earned.

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
7 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Because national guys are talking about something does not make the talk legitimate or worthy of talking about locally. We saw how legit their knowledge is leading up to the trade deadline. All they do is “talk talk.”

Rich81
Rich81
7 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Hey Dan, I don’t believe what the national talking heads are suggesting. To be devils advocate, say the two parties couldn’t come to an agree. Would that not give the Pens the potential to excellerate the rebuild?

woar
woar
7 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Also, Sid’s been busy himself:
https://www.nhl.com/news/topic/short-shifts/sidney-crosby-celebrates-with-canadian-soccer-team-copa-america

Doesn’t prove that he’s been too busy to finalize a contract but it is information missing from the more speculative articles are mentioning in the “where’s the contract?” pieces.

For all we know Sid is planning to sign the contract on Aug 7th to align with his 87 superstitions and preferences.

BrianX
BrianX
7 days ago

Maybe Sid wants to wait until late into next season to see which teams give him the best shot at another SC, then test waters of FA.

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
7 days ago

Sixty-two hockey HOF’ers have never won a Stanley Cup. Sid has 5. Not sure why it is written, not necessarily by this site, that Sid must be sent somewhere where he has a chance to compete for a number 6.

Jeremy Ingland
Jeremy Ingland
7 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

He should’ve had 5 Alas he only has 3 … unfortunately with this regime he ll never see a fourth

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
7 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

Boom

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
7 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

I think that it is more about Sid being a competitive person and for him to be on a very non-competetive team would be a waste. At least, that is how i see it. You are right though, he definitely doesn’t HAVE to go and win a 6th cup!

BrianX
BrianX
7 days ago

Correct.

Eri
Eri
7 days ago

You mean win a 4th Cup! Sidney Crosby has won the Stanley Cup three times. I’m sure his agent is inundated with offers from almost every NHL team. His heart lies in PIT, unless Dubas really screws this thing up.

Last edited 7 days ago by Eri
Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
7 days ago
Reply to  Eri

Yeah, i knew that 🤦🏻‍♂️ i was replying to his comment that incorrectly said 6 and repeated it. Doh!

Eri
Eri
7 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

How has no one corrected this egregious error or is this some inside joke I’m unaware of. Crosby has won 3 Stanley Cups (’09,’16,’17) and competed in 4 Finals (lost in ’08 to DET). He’s won the MVP/Conn Smythe twice (’16 & ’17). He would be chasing his fourth Cup. There is a small chance, but plausible scenario where Crosby does not want to play under Dubas as a GM b/c of the direction/rebuild/retool. He was noticeably distraught and played terribly when the Guentzel trade was announced. He sounds like a creature of habit and the likelihood of him playing… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
7 days ago

I still don’t think that re-signing Letang and Malkin was a bad thing. The team would have been worse without them. At that point in time, they were the best center and defenseman available in free agency. Their deals were too long, for sure, but look at some of the deals handed out recently. Buchnevich, $8 mil for 6 years? Give me a break…

Eri
Eri
7 days ago

I never liked the saying or thought process of signing or trading for the best available player wins the day. It’s an archaic and flawed way of thinking which one can state I did the best I could with the information I had available to acquire the best possible player. That logic is flawed b/c they may not be the right fit for your team to win. The better way to look at signings/trades is to find the ‘RIGHT’ player not the best player. Whether that is position, skill, work ethic, age, injury history, personality, how will they mesh with… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
7 days ago
Reply to  Eri

The best players who are two of our captain’s best friends

King Penguin
King Penguin
7 days ago

Simple fix: Crosby to the Avalanche, Rantanen to the Oilers, Marner to the Penguins, Draisaitl to the Maple Leafs.

Last edited 7 days ago by King Penguin
Joe
Joe
6 days ago

Quite a few stories and rumors floating around on the net about Sid with speculation on what team(s) he will be going to…I don’t see him leaving but he controls his own destiny. Plenty of talk about past franchise players from other teams that moved on that’s difficult to put in comparison…different times and situations.
Sid is and has been the face of the Pens…without him the organization loses its current identity.

Penguinfan
Penguinfan
6 days ago

I hope he signs soon but don’t care about the distractions. It’ll happen when both parties are ready. But if they did decide to part ways I’d hope the rebuild would be underway. If you’re not keeping the heart of the team I’d question keeping Malkin and Letang. Surely they’d be willing to give up their no trade deal if it was the right team. But I really don’t want a full rebuild and it would be nice if they retired around the same time or within a year spand.