Penguins News & Rumors: Letang Stays, Malkin Goes and Trocheck’s Fit

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where nothing is off the table, and the possibilities are endless. For today’s feature, we examine the latest on general manager (GM) Ron Hextall’s plan this offseason and just exactly where he stands on several of the ongoing business decisions. Backup netminder Casey DeSmith signed a two-year contract extension, and let’s see what else is on the table for the Penguins.

Report Suggests Kris Letang Staying With the Penguins

Pittsburgh journalist Dejan Kovacevic suggested that Kris Letang is in line to sign a three-year contract with the hockey club. Admittedly with limited information, Kovacevic shares with caution. It’s the first positive message from the negotiations, and one many with the Penguins will welcome with open arms. Letang has always wanted to remain in Pittsburgh, and this would be great news for everyone involved.

Only a week ago, reports suggested Letang was after a five-year deal, but things can certainly change quickly this time of year. He’s due a raise from his previous $7.25 million salary, and it’s expected we could see the figure as high as $8.25 million per season. The veteran defenseman enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2021-22, collecting a career-high 68 points in 78 games. He’s a gamer and has lots left in the tank, so the Penguins would be wise to let him finish things off where they started, so it sounds like some good news is on the way for Penguins fans.

Reports Indicate Malkin Talks Not So Positive

Jose Yohe of the Athletic recently mentioned Malkin’s camp and Penguins management were not talking on a regular basis, and some within the organization feel like a divorce is pending (from ‘What I’m hearing about the Penguins: Malkin, Letang, Hextall, Trocheck and J.T. Miller,’ The Athletic, 6/28/22). Malkin will have a ton of suitors on the open market, and perhaps one interesting option could be the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning love to get creative when it comes to the salary cap, and recently moving Ryan McDonagh in a salary dump trade could potentially pave the way for Malkin, an offseason Florida native.

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Other teams to keep an eye on if Malkin hits free agency include the Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and Colorado Avalanche. Although he’s been banged up with injuries the past few seasons, he’s still a game changer who impacts the game in many ways. He finished 2021-22 with 42 points in 41 games and another six points in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. He turns 36 this month, so don’t expect to see anything more than a three-year deal handed out to the veteran center. Regardless of how everything shapes up, Malkin will go down as one of the best and most entertaining Penguins in franchise history.

Penguins Have Ideal Replacement in Vincent Trocheck

With the likely departure of Malkin, and the unknown contract chatter surrounding Rickard Rakell and Evan Rodrigues, the second line could be a major question mark for the Penguins when free agency opens July 13. I recently linked Vincent Trocheck as a potential replacement for Malkin.

Related: Penguins Have 3 Interesting Options Should Evgeni Malkin Leave

The Carolina Hurricanes center plays a very aggressive style of hockey. He’s 28 years old, recorded 51 points last season and elevated his game when it mattered most. Trocheck is going to have a number of suitors on the open market and is likely going to hear from the Seattle Kraken, Capitals, Rangers, and Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. His next contract will be very connected to the likes of Nazem Kadri and Claude Giroux, and you could throw Malkin into that mix as well.

Vincent Trocheck Carolina Hurricanes
Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Trocheck loves to throw his weight around and get involved physically, landing 185 hits in 2021-22. He kills penalties and could provide the Penguins with a solid center option for the team’s second power-play unit. He seems like the exact center Hextall is looking for; did I mention he’s a Pittsburgh native?

Regardless of who the Penguins bring in should Malkin walk, there’s going to be a significant amount of pressure. He’s been a warrior for the franchise, and the championship résumé speaks for itself. It’s certainly going to be a ‘by committee’ type of replacement early on in Pittsburgh should an extension not be agreed upon with the Penguins legend.

The Penguins are an interesting team to watch this offseason, as there’s a ton of history hanging in the balance. Letang appears done, and now the attention turns to down the middle. At this point, the news hasn’t all been positive, and the team could be transitioning its core.

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