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Yohe: Penguins need to get younger

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 10:48 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Olli Maatta plays against the Canucks Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Zach Sill (lf) and Brian Gibbons fight for the puck during a scrimage on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Consol Enrgy Center.

The Penguins' coaching staff and front office will receive plenty of attention this week.

At some point, the roster will be under the microscope. And when it is, a harsh reality will be evident: The Penguins have gotten old.

Of the 20 Penguins who participated in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, eight are 30 or older. Two other 30-somethings, defenseman Brooks Orpik and right wing Pascal Dupuis, likely would have been in the lineup had they been healthy.

Once the league's fresh-faced team, the Penguins should be searching for youthful legs this summer.

But getting younger in free agency isn't realistic, and the Penguins' system isn't blessed with an impact forward at the AHL level, though many young defensemen could be ready.

And while the Penguins' stars are still young, they aren't kids anymore.

This summer, Sidney Crosby turns 27 and Evgeni Malkin turns 28.

Mario Lemieux never won a Stanley Cup past 26. Wayne Gretzky won his last championship at 27. Hockey is a young man's game, and while the Penguins' stars aren't old by any stretch, their championship window isn't as wide as it once was.

Even goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who rebounded with one of his strongest NHL seasons, will turn 30 next fall.

The Penguins might lose one of their best younger players as defenseman Matt Niskanen, 27, is a free agent this summer and right wing James Neal, 26, will be the subject of summer trade rumors.

When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, seven of their skaters that night in Detroit were 30 or older.

They've gotten older since then, and few would argue that they've gotten better.

The Penguins have been hesitant to dispatch their veterans over the years out of concern that the organization's young talent wasn't ready to replace the older players.

It might be time to find out this summer, regardless of who the head coach and general manager are.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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