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Stanley Cup Final

5 Questions: Stanley Cup champion Penguins

Starting goalie, status of Malkin, Cullen among Pittsburgh's offseason concerns

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins feel good about their chances to compete for another title next season.

With little change expected, Pittsburgh's confidence is justified. Most of the roster should return and almost all of its primary pieces finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs relatively healthy.

That doesn't mean the Penguins don't have concerns entering the offseason.

Here are 5 questions Pittsburgh faces:


Matt Murray finished the postseason as Pittsburgh's starting goalie, but that wasn't always the case.

Marc-Andre Fleury, coming off his second concussion of the season sustained March 31, was expected to reclaim his starting role at some point during the playoffs. He did against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, but allowed four goals on 25 shots and was replaced by Murray for Game 6.

The Penguins haven't forgotten Fleury's regular-season performance that helped keep them afloat through the first two months. It has general manager Jim Rutherford wanting to keep both goalies for next season. 

"You can never have enough good players, and especially at that position," Rutherford said.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Malkin talks about winning second Cup


After saying he felt fine during Pittsburgh's final media availability of the season Thursday, Malkin said he would have an MRI on Friday to determine if he would need surgery to repair an injured elbow.

Rutherford said there was a 50-50 chance surgery would be required. He did not have a medical update on Malkin, but thinks the possible surgery would take some time to heal.

"This is a guy that had a real serious injury that played before most guys would and made a contribution to the team," Rutherford said. "So, it just shows his character. It's pretty impressive."

Despite the injury, Malkin impressed late in the Stanley Cup Final with two goals and one assist in the final three games. The center was tied for third on the Penguins with 18 points (six goals, 12 points) in the playoffs.


The Penguins will have a much shorter break than a year ago, when they lost to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Some players will have even less time to recuperate. Forwards Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin and Malkin, defenseman Olli Maatta, and Murray have been chosen to compete in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September.

Each of the six will be challenged to balance rest with work, especially Maatta, who will fulfill his required service in the Finnish military.

"Everybody has to do it," Maatta said. "But I'm kind of looking forward to it at the same time."

Video: The Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup Parade


The Penguins' struggles early this season could have cost them a spot in the playoffs.

Thanks to their surge through March, Pittsburgh rebounded to finish second in the Metropolitan Division behind the Washington Capitals. As late as March 11, when Malkin sustained an upper-body injury, the Penguins' playoff chances were in doubt.

The roster was retooled throughout the season, and the most significant change came Dec. 12, when Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach. With a roster built to take advantage of Sullivan's aggressive approach, the Penguins expect more success in the first few months next season.


After winning the Stanley Cup for a second time, Cullen has said he isn't sure if he'll return for a 19th NHL season.

The fourth-line center had a resurgent season with 16 goals, his most since scoring 22 in 2009-10. Rutherford has said he would like Cullen, 39, to return, but will not pressure him to make a hasty decision.

"I told him to take lots of time," Rutherford said. "It's not going to affect what we do on July 1. If Matt doesn't come back, it just opens the door for [forward] Oskar Sundqvist, who is getting very close to being ready to play. If Matt comes back, it gives Oskar a little time."

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