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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Penguins reflected one final time on the 2019 season and for some, they address their future with the team.
The team held locker clean out Thursday morning at the UPMC Lemieux Center in Cranberry. Players had plenty to say heading into the offseason.
“Pens offseason officially begins. Bags are packed, sticks are wrapped together and players are headed home for a few months. Most guys won’t be back here until September.”
A couple of players admitted they were playing with lingering injuries, but when the playoffs begin and the stakes are high, professional athletes jump in earlier than they would with an injury in the regular season.
Forward Jared McCann said he was playing with a separated AC Joint in his shoulder. Meanwhile, defenseman Brian Dumoulin was playing with a torn PCL and forward Bryan Rust admitted he was not 100% when he returned from injury late in the season.
Defenseman Kris Letang said that injury did not have a factor on his performance in the playoffs. He did admit the injury suffered late in the season did hamper his high level of play.
“Letang: “It was bad timing for an injury. I was having a great year. These things happen.”
Forward Patric Hornqvist, who finished the season very quietly on the offensive end, said that concussion symptoms were not hurting him at the end of the season. Hornqvist suffered multiple concussions throughout the season.
“Patric Hornqvist shoots down the idea that his lack of production late was tied to another concussion. Said he has to be better.”
At 42 years old, the only player on the team that is contemplating retirement is Matt Cullen. But, as in recent years, he is not rushing to a decision. During his first stint with Pittsburgh, the same questions were asked about retiring from the game, but nothing came of it. This time around could be a different story.
“Matt Cullen said he is gonna take some time and talk with his family before making any sort of decision on retirement.”
Captain Sidney Crosby does not plan to participate in the World Championships this offseason. He cited that rest is the major factor in this decision. Matt Murray is probable to play in the tournament.
“Crosby on if he will be playing with Team Canada in Slovakia: “No, I’m just going to try to make the most of the rest. No significant injuries, but as you get older, there are things that nag you.”
A few players on the roster are set to get married this Summer including defenseman Erik Gudbranson, goalie Casey DeSmith and forwards Bryan Rust and Garrett Wilson.
Plenty of question marks surround players in terms of returning to the team in 2019. A name at the top of the list is Phil Kessel. He spoke to reporters and said he believes the core team here still has good play left.
“Phil Kessel just left the Pens locker room. I’m wondering if it was for the last time. This was his last answer.”
Defenseman Olli Maatta discussed his future with the team this morning.
“No surgery this summer for Olli Maatta. He said this about being a potential trade piece: “You try not to think about that. All you can do is go and have a good summer. Whatever happens, happens.”
Veteran leader Matt Cullen that it is too soon to disband a majority of the team.
“Matt Cullen said “it’s a little too early to push the panic button on this group”
Crosby knows that change is inevitable when a team with talent exits that early in the playoffs.
“Crosby: “I definitely have confidence in the group of guys we have … I understand that when you lose there are changes made.”
Plenty of questions will be answered when the season ends and the offseason kicks into full swing with free agency at the beginning of July.