After roster changes, Penguins’ oldest player suddenly isn’t that old
When coach Mike Sullivan describes the plan the Pittsburgh Penguins had to retool their roster this summer, he cites three areas where the team wanted to improve.
“We tried to get a little bit younger, we certainly tried to get faster, and we wanted to become a team that’s more difficult to play against,” Sullivan said.
It’s telling that getting younger is the first improvement Sullivan mentioned. Now more than ever, the NHL is a young man’s league.
When examining how well the Penguins have achieved the goal of getting younger this summer, attention logically turns to the players the team acquired.
In trades, they added 25-year-old Alex Galchenyuk, 24-year-old Dominik Kahun and 20-year-old defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph. The team’s lone high-profile signing, 27-year-old Brandon Tanev, is young by unrestricted free agent standards.
The infusion of young legs is what seems to intrigue Sullivan most.
“Part of what excites us moving forward is the enthusiasm that some of the new players that (GM Jim Rutherford has) acquired have expressed to us, both privately but also publicly, and how excited they are with the opportunity in front of them to become part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and become part of a group that potentially has a chance to win Stanley Cups,” Sullivan said. “We’re really excited about the enthusiasm.”
A better picture of how the Penguins got younger this summer, however, might be found at the other end of the age spectrum on the team’s roster.
When 42-year-old center Matt Cullen finally announced his retirement earlier this month, the Penguins were left without a true graybeard on the roster.
In a development that will be staggering to fans who remember him scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in 2006, Evgeni Malkin is now the oldest player on the Penguins roster. He’ll turn 33 at the end of the month.
Patric Hornqvist, Jack Johnson and Kris Letang are 32. Sidney Crosby will turn 32 next month.
Barring the addition of a grizzled vet before October, Malkin will be the Penguins’ youngest oldest player on opening night since 32-year-old Ron Francis was the team’s most senior member in 1995-96.
In 15 of the last 17 years, the Penguins opened the season with at least one player 35 or older on the roster.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .