And as much as that group – and all of us, for that matter – didn’t want to think last season might be their last ride, they know this is a business. While it is impossible to imagine this team without these three together, this is a real possibility. But in the end, they don’t want to go anywhere. They want to stay in Pittsburgh and end their careers together as Penguins.
“I think we all feel the same way,” Sidney Crosby She said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to play together for a long time, we’ve been through a lot. I think when you look at all these experiences, there’s a lot of faith, a lot of trust in each other – however, we’ve also had success.
“It’s very rare, and I think we all appreciate it. However, we understand that it’s not something that can happen forever. But hopefully it will take a little longer. We hope to keep playing together. It’s unique, it’s special. And I think we’ve done a job. Very good as a group and as a team. So I hope this plays its part as well.”
Video: Crosby speaks to the media
This is an understatement, having conducted playoffs in each of their 16 seasons together, the longest active streak in the major professional sports leagues in North America. These have come with four trips to the Stanley Cup Final, and three Stanley Cup Championships in 2009, 16 and 17.
Along the way, Crosby, Malkin, and Letang have built a wonderful legacy that has become intertwined and, in the process, even more special. As much fun as it is for everyone to make such an amazing individual mark in this sport at its highest level, the simultaneous achievement of such amazing collective success for a world organization like this is truly an extraordinary thing.
As Mike Sullivan said, it’s really hard to articulate what you mean by the organization you’ve become synonymous with.
“I can’t say enough about these guys and how motivated and their desire to win, their care of the Pittsburgh Penguins and their teammates,” Sullivan said. “When you look at the legacy that’s been built here over the past 16 years, these three guys are the cornerstone of that franchise.”
It is difficult for them to express what they mean to each other. Outside of all the tournaments, awards, and achievements, what makes this superhero trio so special is how close they are.
“There is a bond between them that I think is unbreakable,” the goalkeeper Tristan Garry She said.
It basically comes from entering the league together as kids, then growing side by side through the highs, lows and everything in between for an extended period of time.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” Malkin said. “They’re two brothers.” “One Canadian and one French Canadian. I love them. It’s not just hockey, it’s life. We spend a lot of time together. We know each other very well.”
Video: Malkin speaks to the media
After leading the Penguins to the 2009 championship as a youth, a few years later, Crosby signed a 12-year deal in 2012. The following summer, both Malkin and Letang signed eight-year contracts before gaining access to free agency.
All three of these additions were incredibly team friendly, as the players made sacrifices so they could stay together and have more success in Pittsburgh…which they did in droves. Now, Malkin and Letang are in unfamiliar territory when it comes to their current situations.
“I’ve always signed extensions in the past, so it’s not something I know what to expect,” Letang said. “The main goal has always been to stay here and play in Pittsburgh…I definitely tried to help build something good here, and obviously I want to keep that.”
“Pittsburgh, my second home,” Malkin said. “I’m 16 here, it’s amazing. It’s hard to understand what’s happening now because we just lost two days ago. It still hurts. But I hope we can find a way to make us all happy. If you play like 20 years for one club, it’s great.” It’s work, but I’m ready both ways. If I stay, I’ll be much happier.”
Their age is an important factor, with Malkin turning 36 on July 31, and Litang turning 35 on April 24. But they proved that these are just numbers, with both continuing to maintain elite levels of play.
“I know I’m older, but I believe in myself,” Malkin said.
Despite missing the first three months of the season after major knee surgery, Malkin returned and hit the 20-goal mark in the 13s.y Once in his career in only 41 games. He’s looking forward to a summer where he’s actually training instead of rehab, and says that when he’s healthy, he’s often able to.
“No injury, I’m surprised,” he said. “It’s a new challenge for me, for sure. I want to get back on my level and show that I’m still a good player and show my best, because I want to play all 82 games, do the playoffs. I want to play in a final or semi-final and I think it’s still We have a chance if you stay here. We have a great organization and a great coach and we still have a chance to win.”
In addition to age, money is of course another factor. Malkin joked earlier in the season that he’s not thinking about it, because “I’m a very rich guy.” And while it’s not much of a problem for him, Malkin has a family – wife, son and parents – to take care of, and he wants to ensure they all have the best possible future.
“I think I’m still a good player and I think good players sign good contracts,” Malkin said. “If I once said I was a rich man, it didn’t mean I was worth like a million dollar contract. …Again, it’s business, but we’ll see what happens. I hope we sign a good deal. I can only say for now, I want To play like three or four years ago.”
Letang thinks he could last a little longer, which is not at all surprising after the year he just had. With both Malkin and Crosby sidelined to start the season, Letang was the rock of Pittsburgh from start to finish.
16 lahy It was the best season of his career, with Letang achieving his best goals in assists (58), points (68) and time on ice (25:47). That number jumped dramatically in qualifying, with Letang averaging 29:51 minutes in the first round which made it look easy.
“I feel really good,” said Letang. “My body, it’s been great for the last few years and I see myself playing maybe four or five years.” Then he paused before adding “easily”.
Video: Litang talking to the media
These estimates put a smile on the captain’s face when he heard it.
“I’m glad to hear that Geno said three and Tanga said five plus, probably. I’m not surprised by either of those answers,” Crosby laughed. “That’s pretty much the same as the track there. But glad they’re looking to keep playing. They can, and they’re playing at a high level.”
Crosby is proud of the way his friends have handled themselves with all the question marks surrounding their contract status this season, saying it’s surprising they’ve been able to put that aside and continue playing the way they did.
Now, the news and rumors circulating in the coming days and weeks will be amplified. But hopefully, after all is said and done, Malkin and Letang will return to play those remaining years alongside their captain.
“They are players of a generation, and Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have had three of them over the past 15 years,” Gary said. “The bond they created is irreplaceable…it’s a business, but I think if they could make a comeback, they definitely would.”