The Pittsburgh Penguins will have to hold the fort for the first six weeks or more of the NHL season. Those were the words of GM Ron Hextall as he broke the news that after weeks of non-invasive rehab failed, captain Sidney Crosby needed wrist surgery which was performed in New York on Wednesday.
Crosby will be out for at least six weeks.
“This is not a new injury for Sid. It is something that he has played through for years,” said Penguins general manager Ron Hextall. “After exhausting all minimally-invasive options and much discussion, it was decided that surgery was in his best interest.”
Crosby had surgery on the same wrist last summer, too.
The Penguins won’t have a cash windfall to add free agents or additional players because Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin, who had offseason knee surgery, will return.
The Crosby surgery will leave the Penguins without their top two centers to begin the season. Though Hextall didn’t put a timetable on Malkin’s injury, it also didn’t sound promising that Malkin would return before Crosby.
“We have enough talent to hold the fort until Sid gets back, and then when Geno gets back,” Hextall said.
Six weeks from today means Crosby will miss only four regular-season games.
But if you take that sentence literally, the sequential phrasing perhaps indicates Malkin won’t be back for more than six weeks. However, Hextall officially said that an update on Malkin would not be available until closer to training camp.
“Sid has been dealing with this for numerous years now… It takes weeks to figure out where the wrist is at and if it could get through another year,” Hextall said. “The conclusion that we came to was this procedure was the best way to proceed.”
The Penguins have a few depth centers in the organization. Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger figure to be the top two centers without Crosby and Malkin. Recent PTO signing Brian Boyle as well as Evan Rodrigues can play center.
“Well, it’s not ideal. You know, let’s be honest. But we’re not going to sit there and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to find ways to win games. We’re not going to replace Sid and Geno, obviously,” the GM said. “So we’ll need different guys to step up on any given night. And we’re going to have to play a hard brand of hockey. And like I said, have some guys step up. There’s going to be more opportunity for guys like Evan Rodrigues, Radim Zohorna, Dominik Simon, Michael Chaput, and Brian Boyle.”
Hextall did give a specific tap to Zohorna and Rodrigues as guys who will get an opportunity that may not have existed otherwise. The Penguins GM also joked with Crosby that he wasn’t going to replace No. 87 just yet.
Kidding aside, it’s going to be a nightmare scenario for the Penguins without either tent-pole center to lean on. Carter will be the defacto choice, and maybe we find out what Zohorna can do.
“I think we’ve got some guys from within that we’re excited about. I think a guy like Zohorna, who showed what he showed last year, and Evan Rodrigues, you know, has got a high skill level. Obviously, a guy like Teddy Blueger is going to get a little more. And we need Jeff Carter to play well,” Hextall said. “But this is going to be a group effort to kind of make up for the deficit that we have here. And there’s no sense crying about it. Every team goes through it, and we’re going through it.
And I think if you if you look at our schedule, we have a very late divisional schedule at the start of the year. So in terms of Sid timeline, that’s a that’s also a positive.”
Without Crosby and Malkin, that’s 90 points out of the Penguins lineup. Last season, Crosby scored 62 (24-38-62) points in 54 games. Malkin had 28 points (8-20-28) in 33 games.
Not only the loss of production, but bottom-six centers will be in the top-six feeding premier wingers, and depth players will anchor the bottom six.
Hextall fully admitted the Penguins would have to tighten up their style of play. Defense and goaltending.
Now, about Tristan Jarry and that open right-side defense position…