The Pittsburgh Penguins knew they had several issues they needed to handle this offseason. The wish of the organization was to deal with them in the glow of a fourth Stanley Cup championship. The reality is more bleak.
Following a sweep at the hands of the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins, the Penguins enter the 2013 offseason with a bitter taste in their mouths. Whether that impacts their decisions remains to be seen.
The first order of business is to sign forward Evgeni Malkin to a long-term contract, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Malkin is entering the final year of a five-year, $43.5 million contract and stands to earn a substantial raise. Under the regulations of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Penguins could offer Malkin a maximum contract of eight years, $102.88 million.
Rossi reports that discussions on a new deal will begin within the week.
However, Malkin isn't the only key piece of the Penguins roster entering the final year of his contract. Defenseman Kris Letang has one year remaining on a four-year, $14 million deal and also stands to command a hefty raise. According to Rossi, Letang is seeking a minimum of five years but would prefer a maximum deal at eight. In terms of dollar amount, he is believed to be seeking something in the $7-8 million range.
It is widely believed that Pittsburgh will not be able to keep both players. General manager Ray Shero has stated that he hopes to do so.
In addition, Shero will have to decide whether he plans to retain unrestricted free agents Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla, Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis. Rossi reports that discussions are expected to begin with Dupuis next week and that the 34-year-old forward is seeking a four-year deal in the $4 million range. Shero has been hesitant to hand out contracts of that length to players of Dupuis' age in the past. Rossi believes that Shero might be willing to make an exception in this case.
Questions have also risen about the potential buyout of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and the future of head coach Dan Bylsma. Bylsma stated on Sunday that Fleury will be his No. 1 goaltender heading into next season. However, given the Penguins' disappointing performance in the playoffs the last couple of years, some believe that upper-management might look to shake things up. That could mean the dismissal of Bylsma.
By buying out Fleury, the team would open up $5 million in cap space. This could potentially allow the club to retain some of the players listed above. However, it remains to be seen whether this is a course of action the franchise is actually considering or merely speculation.
Obviously, the disappointing conclusion to 2013 has altered perceptions about the club's construction. Whether that is true for upper-management remains to be seen.
Shero is scheduled to give his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday.