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Big Question: Will New Penguins Ownership Affect Crosby, Malkin Future?

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Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin celebrates with Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby

We have come to wonder about defenseman Kris Letang and his future with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His contract expires after this season. The same goes for fellow three-time Stanley Cup-winning core teammate Evgeni Malkin.

GM Ron Hextall said the team planned to begin negotiations after free agency. Hextall went on record July 23 as saying he expected Letang and Malkin back.

However, the Penguins have not yet dished new contracts for their future Hall of Famers or Bryan Rust. There hasn’t been a single report of talks, either. Not even a whisper. All talks are either top secret or non-existent.

Now the chessboard will change in significant and all-encompassing ways.

The people who sign the paychecks will change.

By all accounts, the Fenway Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox and the famed Liverpool English Premier League team amongst its holdings, is about to take a controlling interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reports indicated Mario Lemieux would retain some ownership, but that could be anything from a substantial minority ownership stake to a small figurehead share.

We don’t yet know how much Lemieux will retain. That’s probably a significant fulcrum on which the future of the Penguins hinges, too.

Here’s why.

Lemieux blessed the efforts to repair a rift with Evgeni Malkin and reaffirm the ties that bind. The offseason of 2019 seems like a lifetime and a plague ago, but the relationship between Malkin and the Penguins reached its breaking point. We’ve reported the story, as have others since, that Malkin was unhappy and all sides were considering moving on.

In the shaded light of history, some have downplayed the drama. We’ll never know just how close the sides were to separation, but at the moment, it indeed seemed to be on the precipice–and other teams believed it was, too.

Lemieux’s leadership charted the course to ride or die with the current Penguins core.

Mario Lemieux finished his career with one organization, and the words from all involved have indicated that is the plan for the Penguins’ current core, too.

Is or Was the Pittsburgh Penguins Plan?

New owners usually have different views and ideas. A $7 billion corporation known for acquiring fabled teams and sometimes laying waste to the status quo may not care about the last 15 years.

So, here’s the million-dollar question: Without the same emotional attachment and appreciation, will new owners choose to invest millions into players to preserve a legacy despite a decreasing chance of a championship?

Lemieux’s stake in the team could help answer the question, too.

John Henry has not been a wildly popular owner in Liverpool. Last April, Henry upset the entire English Premier League when he tried to move Liverpool from the EPL to a breakaway superleague that he helped found with other mega-rich teams across Europe.

Within days, the super league folded as fans revolted, and the backlash was so intense, Henry issued a video apology.

It wasn’t the first time Henry and Liverpool’s faithful crossed because of insensitive business operations.

In 2016, Henry was under fire because the Liverpool website listed the core operation of the Fenway Group as “transforming fans into customers.”

Yikes.

That was on the heels of criticism that revamped ticket price modeling after signing a huge new TV deal was “morally unjustifiable.” 

It’s a far cry from the Lemieux Group, which has largely been immune to criticism in its two-decade ownership and seen as a model of fan-friendly stewardship.

It’s certainly not inconceivable that as one ownership group defined the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as classy and loyal by riding into the sunset with Letang and Malkin, and a new ownership group will see a different decision as nothing personal but strictly business.

After this season, Sidney Crosby has three years remaining on his 12-year contract.

While we’re asking if new owners will push for a new direction, the reverse could be true, too. Without his former landlord and teammate in the owner’s box, will Sidney Crosby view the Pittsburgh Penguins organization the same way?

What if organizational changes don’t suit Crosby? Would he finish his career elsewhere?

After decades of ownership turmoil, Lemieux and Ron Burkle did what no one else could do–they brought stability and business success to the Penguins.

Change is scary. A new ownership group that spends hundreds of billions on the team has earned the right to chart its own course.

But those are the questions everyone involved must answer. What is their immediate vision for the Pittsburgh Penguins?

The questions must be asked.

And we can hold them to the answers, without the same loyalty or blind eye, because the Fenway Group is not a local hero who risked everything to save an organization, again.

Change is scary.

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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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Steve
Steve (@steve)
19 days ago

The timing feels awkward. Hextall and Burke are just settling in. They came onboard because of Lemieux and the stability of the organization. How much does this all change? For an organization that Lemieux and Burkle helped stabilize, there’s rarely a dull moment (Hextall’s first summer as the notable exception).

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
19 days ago

Keeping on Mario is a no brainer, any mistakes its the Hall of famers fault. Keep Rust at all costs, he’s the only one who’s given every line a boost and if the line can’t keep up he just crashes the net full speed. Evan might be a keeper. Sid keep definitely, I’m sure he’ll get it together real soon and for Geno hah hah hah.

Katz
Katz (@paul)
19 days ago

“Change is scary.”

After the last 3 plus seasons post season collapses , change is needed.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
19 days ago
Reply to  Katz

Don’t worry, its coming. More than half of the team is either UFA or RFA. They will all be playing for their jobs next season. If any of them play badly, bye bye! If they play well, then the team will presumably be winning. Winning is good.

Katz
Katz (@paul)
18 days ago

Well the real concern isn’t how new ownership will affect with Crosby and Malikin

The real concern is his will they affect Dominick Simon!

Last edited 18 days ago by Katz
rhodepop
rhodepop
19 days ago

I think Malkin will be gone before the trade deadline IF he comes back from injury and plays decently well. Yes, I know he has a no-movement clause. Letang is probably gone. Sullivan too unless this lackluster team turns it around. Crosby probably can decide what he wants to do-stay or go. It is hard to argue with FSG and Henry’s record of success with the Red Sox. They tend to not hang on to players and management. As you point out, it has been a bit uglier off the field with Liverpool but on the field has been great.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
19 days ago
Reply to  rhodepop

Letang is still among the best at his position, so i expect he will get a contract if he keeps playing to that level. Hopefully he signs a team friendly deal. Malkin’s injuries cloud the situation. Even if he wanted to change scenery it will be hard to trade him because of that and his age. I think they let him walk in the offseason if he wants to go. Then, hopefully there is a UFA out there who can fill the void and doesn’t mind playing behind Crosby. No one ever thinks about who replaces Geno or offers any… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
18 days ago

So, the only free agent #2 centers that MAY be available are Trochek and Hertyl. Carolina would be dumb to let Vinny walk and Hertyl most likely isn’t going anywhere either. So, there you have it, Malkin needs to get another contract! Sure, a trade could be possible, but who could the penguins trade for a #2 center without giving up precious draft picks that Hextall doesn’t want to give?

Steve Hamula
Steve Hamula
19 days ago

The way the Pens are currently playing and dropping in the Metro standings, I would suspect that both Malkin (presuming he does return and play well) and Letang will likely be moved at the trade deadline. All good things must come to an end, and I think the Pens are following the path previously set out by the Hawks and Kings where the core group ages, other players move one, and the team suffers through a down period while working to rebuild. If this does occur, the primary question really will be whether Sid wants to stick around for the… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Hamula

Sid will leave if there is a full rebuild. No question. He is a competitor and won’t want to be part of losing constantly

Frank
Frank
19 days ago

If nothing else, it makes me wonder how all of this may be part of the Rutherford departure. Sales like this do not occur overnight and it is entirely possible that serious interest began a year ago. If that was the case . . . I realize it may not . . . then it would explain why the ownership may have pushed back on a tentative deal that GMJR wanted to make at the time. Burkle/Lemieux are not going to trade away a franchise asset like Letang or Malkin without a resulting reduction in sale value. Plus as an… Read more »

John F McCaffrey
John F McCaffrey
18 days ago
Reply to  Frank

To be perfectly frank Frank, your thorough and frank analysis was perfect Frank!!!

Frank
Frank
18 days ago

Sometimes a name can be a curse. But . . . quite frankly John I don’t give a damn!”

John
John
14 days ago
Reply to  Frank

All kidding aside, I always look forward to your thought-provoking responses on PHN!!! Dan has really improved at writing columns that not only provide news and his voice, but also utilize PHN as a forum to stimulate intelligent debate and discussion.

Last edited 14 days ago by John
Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
19 days ago

I think change and fresh perspective can be good by the same token intelligent fans do exist here. The new ownership group has to know that and hopefully have done their homework. Whether this team signs these guys or not isnt gonna change the outcome of this team for a few years. There are no guarantees that an FA would come here and would be effective as well as a solid trade to help the organization. No movement on the FA or trade front from the new guys has happened. I am more skeptical about Hextall and Burke than the… Read more »

Ken Colligan
19 days ago

As I mentioned to you back in January, the real story was not GM search but future sale of the team. This has been going on for quite awhile. Burke did not leave his media job to preside over a declining team with financial issues. Truth is that for quite some time , off ice , the team was being run on a shoestring. Morale was not good. Lack of development around arena is a disgrace. Although, anyone having to deal with departing Peduto administration should get a bit of a pass. It will be different, but change was needed.… Read more »

trackback

[…] Pittsburgh: The hockey world was shocked Tuesday afternoon as it came out that Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership group are in talks to sell the team. What does this mean for the futures of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in Pittsburgh? […]

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
19 days ago

Still believe it is a “show me” year for all players, 58 and 71 included. Any new contract should be based on the future value to the team, not the past.
Hate to see ownership outside of Pittsburgh but cant blame Mario. He IS the Pittsburgh Penguins and I will always be thankful for all the thrills he has given us.

FrankoK
FrankoK
18 days ago

Worst part of deal is rotten China lover Lebraun James has his grubby fingers in the group.

trackback

[…] With the Penguins being sold to Fenway, what will the future hold for the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and even Sidney Crosby. Could the three Penguins find their way into some NHL trade […]

trackback

[…] With the Penguins being sold to Fenway, what will the future hold for the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and even Sidney Crosby. Could the three Penguins find their way into some NHL trade […]

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