Penguins keeping Mike Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, seeking more size and toughness

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May 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan (middle) reacts on the bench against the New York Islanders in game two of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Rumor Mill will have a few less names to talk about as both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are expected to stay with the Penguins next season. Based on GM Ron Hextall’s comments he believes the team is still in a win-now mode and sees a future with this core.

Penguins to stick with Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang

“These guys have been here a long time,” Hextall said today at the team’s exit meetings. “We had a good year. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core.” Hextall then rattled off some impressive team stats including being fifth overall for points and second overall in Goals For.

“So [this season] wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “I expect to have these guys back next year, for sure.” 

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Evgeni Malkin with Kris Letang trailing (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When asked about contract extensions for Malkin and Letang, he noted that the discussions were ongoing. Regardless, they both will be back next season so they these names out of trade talks this summer.

Coaching staff coming back

As far as Mike Sullivan’s future is concerned, it will be right back behind the Penguins bench. Hextall said that Sullivan and his staff were terrific this season despite a challenging year. He also made it a point to say that he and Sullivan are on the same page for what the identity of this team will be going forward.

The talk of relieving Sullivan had a lot to do with President Brian Burke and Ron Hextall’s philosophy of adding and playing more grit guys. Sullivan’s teams have been described as soft with his preference for skill throughout the lineup.

Hextall also pointed out the playoff struggles of Tristan Jarry and giving him a big vote of confidence. “We do feel like Tristan did a good job for us this year,” the GM said. “We wouldn’t have been where we were without Tristan. We all have to remember, Tristan’s a young player. He’s going to learn from this and he’s going to come back better in September.”

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May 16, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) makes a save against New York Islanders right wing Kyle Palmieri (21) as Pens defenseman Cody Ceci (4) defends during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins still hunting for size

The question of what the Penguins would like to do with the roster heading into next season was also asked. Hextall once again has repeated the mantra both he and Burke have been espousing since the day they were hired.

“Would we like to add a little bit of size? Of course, we’d like to add a little bit of size, a little bit of toughness. Yes, it would be nice. But there’s not a lot out there. We’ll look at what’s there this summer and we’ll make adjustments, but if we go on to the next season with this group, we’re comfortable.”

NHL.com