For Penguins, offseason roster changes all but guaranteed after first-round sweep
A sullen group of Pittsburgh Penguins players sat in their stalls in a losing locker room Tuesday night knowing full well they just finished the last game this team would play together a group.
Being swept in the first round of the playoffs inevitably leads to personnel changes.
Even if it didn’t, the team’s salary-cap situation necessitates at least some adjustments be made.
The end of an era? That’s probably too dramatic. The end of this particular roster as constructed? That’s a sure thing.
Who is most to blame for the Penguins' first-round playoff sweep?
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“Every year we try to win,” center Evgeni Malkin said. “You can’t change the whole team. Maybe (general manager Jim Rutherford) can change one or two, maybe like more, but we’re the same system, the same coaches, the same players too. We need to just play better.”
It’s practically a guarantee that Phil Kessel’s name will pop up in trade rumors for the third consecutive summer. After the game, Kessel himself said he couldn’t say whether he’d be back in the fall.
“I don’t know at this point,” Kessel said. “We’ll see how it goes this summer.”
Beyond that, Penguins leadership will have to sit down and decide which direction it wants the roster to go as the team’s current championship era draws one year closer to ending.
A February trade for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad hints that Rutherford might want his roster to get younger and faster. The newest additions on defense, however, indicate that concept may not apply to the blue line.
“I’ve got to try to assess the whole thing over the next little while,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I have so much respect for the group of players that we have. We have great people. They’re character guys. They’re great players, and our coaching staff has a lot of respect for this group. It’s a privilege to coach this team.
“Having said that, we have high expectations as well. When you don’t meet those expectations, then everybody’s got to take a step back and soul-search and find out what we learn from it, what are the takeaways and how do we get better. What those answers are, it’s hard for me to say right now.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .