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Islanders Bump Penguins from Playoffs, Core Changes Coming for Pens?

The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated from the 2020-21 NHL playoffs. Could core changes be coming to the Pens roster?

Needless to say, a new Pittsburgh Penguins front office will do everything they can to put a competitive team on the ice next season. With Brian Burke and Ron Hextall now running the show, there are bound to be some on-ice personnel changes as the window to win for the Penguins got a little smaller on Wednesday night after the New York Islanders eliminated them from the 2020-21 NHL playoffs.

Related: 3 Reasons for Washington Capitals Elimination From the 2021 Playoffs

The Isles will go up against the Boston Bruins in the second round and the Penguins will look internally at what needs to be done to ensure players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have the best shot at competing. That is, assuming they are still together when the dust settles and a new season begins.

Up until Wednesday night, the Penguins hadn’t lost three games in a row all season. That they lost three consecutive in the playoffs is going to sting and might be telling of the kinds of changes the team will need to make. The Penguins have won only one playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2017, but the bigger problem is that some of their key assets are getting older. On this date next year, Crosby will be 34, Malkin 35, and Letang 35.

Jeff Carter said of the loss: “You gotta lead on the road – you gotta lock it in. We battled, man. We battled hard. There’s no let up in this group. This is just a tough one to take right now.”

Could Penguins Break Up the Core?

Malkin has another year on his current contract, but there will be some talk around what the Penguins do there. Obviously, the freshness of the loss is still there, but a number of Penguins fans are wondering if he’ll be back or if the organization can or will try to convince him to waive his no-move clause.

Evgeni Malkin Penguins
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin is still a relatively productive player, but some have questioned his motivation and effort level versus what it will take for the Penguins to get back into a spot where they are a team who can advance further into the playoffs. If the Penguins can move Malkin and get some decent pieces in return, the argument seems to be, would it not be best to do so before his trade value is gone?

The same could go for Letang, while most people suggest it would be a long-shot, at best, that the Penguins contemplate moving Crosby.

When asked if he thinks the team should break up the core group, Crosby said, “They’ve been saying that for four years, right? I know that the three of us, we want to win and we’ll do whatever it takes to try to compete to do that every year. We’ve been together a long time.”

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