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Where’s Crosby’s Contract? Is Dubas Planning Full Rebuild in 12 Months?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

There are lingering and significant questions without definitive answers. Yet the circumstantial evidence is piling up, and arrows are beginning to point to a full-scale rebuild, not a retool on the fly, for the Pittsburgh Penguins beginning within the next 12 months.

For starters, it’s July 3. Where is the new contract for Sidney Crosby?

Clearly, issues are being discussed, and after two months of communication between the two sides, they are not settled. Both Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas and Crosby have specifically stated that the conversations and negotiations will be private. That’s fine, but notice that neither side has yet used the phrase “optimistic.”

Last week, when discussing his inclusion on Team Canada, Crosby only conceded that “We’re talking. I’ll leave it at that.”

Surely, if both sides were anxious for a deal, some of that would be evident, and the talks would not be shrouded in more secrecy than a President’s mental acuity.

After well outperforming his contracts for the entirety of his career, Crosby deserves whatever he wants. He has earned a blank check with Fenway Sports Group’s signature at the bottom. However, that hasn’t happened, and after July 1, perhaps the reason there isn’t a new contract on the books isn’t because of money but rather the direction of the team.

Notice all of the one-year deals Dubas signed. New top-four defenseman Matt Grzelcyk only got a one-year contract. Anthony Beauvillier was kicked around the league over the last two years, playing for four teams, and he was the second-most notable free-agent signing.

Skipping past the merits of putting bottom-six scoring in the hands of a player who couldn’t stick in New York, Chicago, Nashville, or Vancouver, Beauvillier got one year, too.

Fourth liner Blake Lizotte and depth defenseman Sebastian Aho were the lucky two who got two-year deals.

Next July, Crosby, Lars Eller, and Marcus Pettersson will be unrestricted free agents. In two years, Evgeni Malkin, Michael Bunting, and Kevin Hayes will be UFAs.

It’s valid to wonder if Crosby is looking at the coming iceberg and wondering if he wants to bravely ride the Titanic to the bottom as the tuxedo-clad band plays an instrumental version of his rookie year goal anthem, Song 2. In full disclosure, we don’t know the details of any contract talks. Perhaps it’s not the lack of an FSG blank check, but Crosby seeing all that was and comparing it to all that won’t be.

No blame here if he doesn’t have the stomach for it. Unlike Mario Lemieux, Crosby doesn’t own the team. One wonders if even Lemieux would have come back or stayed through the horrors of Generation Next if he were not the owner. Lemieux was never thrilled playing on a line with the likes of Alexei Morozov or Toby Peterson.

Hypothetically, if Crosby were to go to Montreal and lead the young team to a Stanley Cup, the hockey world might replace Gordie Howe with Crosby on the Rushmore of greats. It would be a just reward for Crosby’s extreme work and dedication.

Penguins Lineup

Pittsburgh Hockey Now laid out the Penguins lineup on Tuesday. For all of the public commitment to keeping a good team around Crosby, the 2024-25 roster is obviously not as good as last season’s roster. Or the year before. And both of those teams missed the playoffs. Yet one of the stated goals was to respect Crosby and the core with NHL talent.

“We’re not looking to simply squeak into the playoffs. It’s to return the team to becoming a contender as soon as possible. Can we do that this season? Can we do that next season,” Dubas said Tuesday. “It’s hard to put a timeframe on it, but this is obviously not as strip-it-down to the studs situation here. The people in the room are too good for that.”

Can’t strip it down this year, but what if those people are no longer in the room next year?

The Penguins organization and Dubas have no doctrinal obligation to continue wasting future assets to solve current problems—far from it. Just as Crosby has no deistic duty to remain.

The spate of one-year contracts means the Penguins will be a somewhat blank slate and be scouring the free-agent market again next summer just to fill regular spots. They’ll be choosing from players who can’t get a better deal or need a short deal to reestablish their careers. Despite agents telling PHN that Pittsburgh remained a destination, that clearly was not the case this week. Players signed one-year “show me” deals across the league, but the talent the Penguins recouped represents a significant downgrade from last season’s near disaster.

If Grzelcyk was a good choice to join the blue line, why not sign him for a few years?

Penguins Prospects

Let’s factor in the coming wave of Penguins prospects. Dubas is amassing draft picks, but so far, only second-rounders have been acquired in the Kevin Hayes and Reilly Smith trades.

There is only one blue-chip prospect in the Penguin’s house, Brayden Yager, and even he isn’t a guaranteed top-six center.

Read More: PHN Full Scouting Report from the Memorial Cup on Brayden Yager.

And with respect to a handful of young players, there isn’t a guaranteed top-six winger on the way, either. Perhaps Yager grows into a second-line type player, and Villie Koivunen matures into a top-six winger, but neither is anything close to a sure thing in that regard. Yager will play in the NHL, but the rest could just as easily miss, and that includes 2022 first-round pick Owen Pickering, who was available but did not get a sweater for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins playoff games.

Read More: In-Person Scouting Report on Tristan Broz and Villie Koivunen

No, it’s not coach Mike Sullivan’s fault for not playing the young players. It’s a combination of bad drafting, lack of draft picks, and poor development. There aren’t young players to play. No matter how many chances the prospects of recent years got, they weren’t going to make it.

Make no mistake, Dubas is signaling his intentions.

“We’re going to try to get established guys on short-term deals (who want to) come in and try to help. That’ll be up to us to select the right players there,” said Dubas just before Round One of the NHL Draft on Friday. “But for me, the major focus is trying to bring in players that are younger and hungrier, who can be with our club for a long time and help us long-term.”

However, Dubas’s timeline for inserting the “kids” has remained nebulous. Certainly, by signing Beauvilier and Lizotte and acquiring Hayes the day after that statement, he’s taken a spot or two away from young players in the system or that he might soon acquire.

What Comes Next

Dubas’s chessboard is deep into his plan of attack. The dots are there to connect–perhaps Crosby wants to be the shepherd to the next generation, perhaps not. And if he’s not the Penguins’ Northstar through the next phase, what’s to keep Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Erik Karlsson, and Bryan Rust around?

It’s a bold gambit. By design, the Penguins will have gaping lineup holes next summer, too, but those holes were unnecessary unless it’s part of a greater plan.

Dubas has fortified the NHL lineup but done so with lesser players on short deals. Dubas could have signed veterans to two or three-year deals and gotten better talent as a result. It sure seems like the stage is set for a true tear-it-down rebuild by next July.

The Penguins are not a playoff contender as currently constructed. The team currently has more suspect players than a Guy Ritchie film.

The evidence after two days of free agency shows that. The team can continue to slide, and perhaps Crosby is looking forward to being the mentor who instills the virtues of being a Penguin in the next generation. There are more questions, but you may want to brace yourselves for the answers.

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Sam
Sam
12 days ago

Sorry, too much hand wringing and too much drama. Sid is under contract for next season, and we are 2 1/2 months away from start of training camp. For all we know, KD may be planning to trade Rackell or Pettersson or both and that would be enough cap space to get Laine for the #1 line. I’ll start to worry about Sid if Jan 1 rolls around, the team is already out of playoff contention, and Sid hasn’t been extended.

Mozer84
Mozer84
12 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Agree. Fear mongering hyperbole. Sid has made it very clear that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else. Been two days since he was eligible to resign, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like he’s a FA. Lots of time left and neither side seems particularly concerned about getting the deal done asap

Bachinga
Bachinga
10 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Rakell trade was dumb;the reverberations being felt since. Blew up two lines to add a redundant winger…

Last edited 10 days ago by Bachinga
JoJo
JoJo
12 days ago

I don’t see the hurry for Crosby to sign an extension. For me he can wait till next offseason and decide if / how long / how much he wants to re-sign.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
12 days ago
Reply to  JoJo

For sure. But, in reality, how long does he not sign before the silence gets deafening? End of July? And wouldn’t it be a really, very large distraction…?

JoJo
JoJo
12 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

Distraction from what, tanking?
This team isn’t going anywhere this season.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
12 days ago

“If Grzelcyk was a good choice to join the blue line, why not sign him for a few years?” Perhaps he simply learned from his “Grave(s) mistake”? 😉 If 87 feels like he wants to go elsewhere to try and win another Cup or be a hero to all of Canada or just because he feels like it, how can you feel bad for him or want to stop that? The guy gave you what he gave you at a discounted rate. IMO, no hard feelings. That said, you can’t just let him walk at the end of next season…… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
12 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

❤️ this comment

Aaron Hermann
Aaron Hermann
12 days ago

If KD really is setting the table for a true tear-it-down-to-the-rafters rebuild then he should just get after it and do it now. I would much rather see Sid somewhere else on a good team with another couple of runs at another cup instead of babysitting the forthcoming nightmare that will be Pens hockey over the next several years. Move everyone you can and stock the cupboards with whatever live or semi-live bodies you need to get you through 2024-2025 while stockpiling as many picks, prospects, and cap space as you can and actually admit that a rebuild is taking… Read more »

Gary Andersen
Gary Andersen
12 days ago

All of the “silence” from both sides speaks volumes. Its July 3rd & not a peep out of anyone! If I were Dubas/FSG I’d do everything in my power to get Sid’s signature on a new deal in the next few weeks…period! If Sid doesn’t want to sign a new deal this summer it tells me that he’s giving serious consideration to possibly signing elsewhere after this season. The only reason for Sid to wait until after this season is so he can become a UFA. If that happens…and the Pens are way out of a playoff spot come February… Read more »

Ujn Hunter
Ujn Hunter
12 days ago

Maybe Dubas is saving space/room for Mitchy to come home next Summer. 😉

T.J. Bunner
T.J. Bunner
12 days ago

“Not as good as last season’s roster”? I will respectfully disagree. I get it, losing Jake Guentzel alone will make most utter those same sentiments. But I believe a team is a sum of ALL it’s parts. The Top line loses Guentzel, but gets an older, more than likely improved Drew O’Connor. Bryan Rust isn’t Jake, but he’s sure has hell isn’t a bad conciliation prize. The 2nd Line already showed improvement when Bunting joined Malkin. An more experienced Puustinen shows up with an improved 3rd Line Center and a high motor LW (Beauvillier) to form, IMO and underrated jolt… Read more »

Brad
Brad
12 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

I like bottom 6 better this year. A lot of nhl LHD added Lost only . Either petey or hopefully Graves is being moved. Unless 1 year deals are to try to find someone who can play with ek or tanger with minimal commitment until they prove it. Petey can play with either. Still need 1st line winger. DOC back on 3rd would make bottom 6 much improved VS last year. Maybe this year is a throw away, trade Ufa at deadline give prospects 2 months to find who’s has it. 3 mil does come off books after this year… Read more »

Bachinga
Bachinga
10 days ago
Reply to  Brad

“I like bottom 6 better this year.”

Really? What body of work by them are you citing to make that conclusion?

mark fields
mark fields
12 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

I don’t know about this take. O’connor on your top line is bad regardless of how good he played (which in my eyes was not fantastic just good). Beauvillier and Lizotte were not signed by their respective teams for a reason. Lizotte is young if he is as good as people think LA would have tendered him an offer. They didn’t. Don’t make him out to be better than he is. I watched LA games…he faded fast, and wasn’t very noticeable on the ice. This is fantasy expectations that happens in a new year with new guys, always think something… Read more »

Bachinga
Bachinga
10 days ago
Reply to  mark fields

^^^^THIS^^^^

Bachinga
Bachinga
10 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

DUDE…take the rose colored glasses off…the last *good* roster was pre trade deadline 2022 and each has since gotten progressively worse…

Letang should have been allowed to walk and Trochek signed…Matheson should have been kept…Rakell trade was moronic and then doubled down by re-signing him…and the game of musical chairs with the bottom 6 is being played to the tune of “Pop goes the weasel”…

Matt B
Matt B
10 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

I have no idea where this narrative keeps coming from. The team arguably played its best hockey after the Guentzel trade and adding Bunting for some jam. If the PP improves, the Pens make the playoffs this season. It was historically bad, and they barely missed.

Nathan
Nathan
12 days ago

FSG has no love for Pittsburgh beyond $. They are from out of Boston. They got rid of Errey — no loyalty for 40 years here — they waited until right before last season, which is a classless move. According to Errey he never saw it coming. Yes, he was an announcer, but it is revealing. So even though I cannot imagine Crosby elsewhere I could see FSG caring more about $ than they do about Pittsburgh, the fans, or Crosby himself. It is entirely possible that they will want to fully gut the team.

Trish
Trish
11 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

See your point, but Sid brings in the dollars and the seats are full. Will they be as full if he moves?

Nathan
Nathan
12 days ago

Hard to say whether the Penguin roster today is better or worse than last season. I say that because last season they under performed on so many levels. If the PP improves to even average they are, on paper, a playoff team. EK, the goaltending, and their OT play were subpar last season and you would think will be better. All of those things could mean 10-15 points in the standings. The biggest concern is the goaltending. This must be addressed. Hopefully Ned is the real deal. Jarry is not.

Pete
Pete
12 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

The biggest concern is Sully.
Until he is gone the losing continues.
6 pathetic years without a playoff win.

Bachinga
Bachinga
10 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

It’s very easy to say “worse” and it’s. by design…Dan has this nailed…

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
12 days ago

Crosby isn’t going anywhere. He didn’t play an instrumental role in getting Letang and Geno back here only to say “Seeya, boys, it was nice knowing you.” He was smart enough to see this day coming. Move on. No story here.

Chalkdust
Chalkdust
11 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

Stanley, you are absolutely right on. Enough said, end of story.

Matthew Caddy
Matthew Caddy
12 days ago

What in the world of all that is holy is going on? I expected the offseason to be slow but I didn’t expect THIS. Kevin Hayes? He’s basically Jeff Carter 2.0. Even though we got a 2nd rounder I still wouldn’t have made that deal. Just another slow faceoff guy eating up too much cap space. I thought they’d sign at least 1 prominent name in free agency, even if it wasn’t one of the top names on the board. I don’t think any of their signings cracked the top 10. And why isn’t Sid signed yet? He needs to… Read more »

mark fields
mark fields
12 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Caddy

Thank you…it is what I’ve been saying. Don’t be surprised is Hayes is no better than Carter. His wall play is bad and soft in the corners.

JoshK
JoshK
12 days ago

I think the roster is stronger on defense and in bottom 6, substantially so if some of new guys perform closer to career levels than last season or two. Add Tarasenko or some other decent top 6 winger, and DOC on 3rd line, team starts to look pretty solid. I would say, though, that if they are underperforming by trade deadline, i could see Geno being dangled…

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago
Reply to  JoshK

Tarasenko gone to DET. Top FAs don’t want to come to PIT.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
11 days ago
Reply to  BrianX

Penguins also didn’t have the cap space.

mark fields
mark fields
12 days ago

I want Sid to win another cup, I want Sid to win another cup in Pittsburgh with the Penguins. Unfortunately Dubas seems to be planning a rebuild without calling it that. I hope for Sid’s legacy he doesn’t stay here. It would be a waste of player who is meant to play playoff hockey to stay and be a mentor. I don’t see Pittsburgh being a contender any time soon unfortunately, I don’t trust Dubas’ ability to assess talent (he just hasn’t hit many homers when trying to round out a bottom 6 in Toronto and here last year. Including… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
11 days ago
Reply to  mark fields

No one cares about your extreme hate of Dubas. You can move on to comment about other things because you have made your position clear. Unfortunately, we are commenters on a web page and cannot fire Dubas for you.

Woytowich
Woytowich
10 days ago
Reply to  mark fields

Again I agree. Anybody can tear down a team and commit to a 3-4 year rebuild.
However, that was not Dubas’ mandate. It was to protect the legacy years of our Hall of Famers. Dubas has failed already failed in this mission. Maybe, Crosby has no confidence in Dubas. I don’t.!

Pete
Pete
12 days ago

Sid deserves to go to a contender. He doesn’t owe PGH anything. He has done more than enough. I hope he chases the cup!

Dorothy Tecklenburg
Dorothy Tecklenburg
12 days ago

The Titanic metaphor is appropriate. I feel like we’re sinking.

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago

Root for the underdogs. Every win over a team that is considered better is sweet enough to offset the bitterness of several losses. We haven’t been true Stanley Cup contenders for going on a decade. Be glad the process to fill the prospect pipeline has begun so we can climb back up toward the top.

Diane
Diane
11 days ago

You had to go there huh? Part of the bed wetters brigade maybe?

Keith
Keith
11 days ago

Gavin Mckenna

King Penguin
King Penguin
11 days ago

Expect a significant trade ahead. That explains why Crosby is on hold at the moment.

Last edited 11 days ago by King Penguin
Clyde
Clyde
10 days ago

What are they waiting on with this tear down. They shouldve done that after Montreal kicked their butts in the covid playoffs. Why keep all those old guys. Now they look sick.

John O’Rourke
John O’Rourke
10 days ago

Crosby will get his 600th goal and 1,600th point probably before November. I’m sure all parties would like for that to be done in a Penguins jersey. After that who knows. I’ve felt all along that there is no benefit to Crosby to sign an extension this offseason. Whatever money he wants will be there for him next summer.

Joe
Joe
6 days ago

What is up sign sli now this over rated front office sucks get them all fired if he goes hockey is dead in PA