Kris Letang hopes the Pittsburgh Penguins don't make changes to their roster next season, the defenseman told The Athletic on Wednesday.
Trade rumors have surrounded a number of players since the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round, among them forward Phil Kessel and center Evgeni Malkin. But Letang said he believes the current roster is capable of winning the Stanley Cup for the third time in five seasons.
"I don't think there's any need to hit the panic button," Letang told the website.
Malkin had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) and was minus-25 in 68 regular-season games, down from the 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) he had in 2017-18. In the playoffs against the Islanders, he had three points (one goal, two assists) and didn't have a point in the final two games.
"The fact those rumors have come out, I find it hard to believe," Letang said. "[Malkin has] been treated really well with us, he's won three Stanley Cups. There's a lot of gossip out there sometimes. It's not because he had a tougher season that he's suddenly a bad player. Every player has bad seasons."
Letang has heard the same rumors about Kessel, who had 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists), tied for the most he has had in an NHL season after the 92 points (34 goals, 58 assists) he had in 2017-18. Against the Islanders, he had a goal and an assist in Game 1 but didn't have a point in the final three games.
Video: Fallout if Penguins decide to move on from Kessel
"I talk to him almost every day and we chat about it, but all this is stuff we don't control," Letang said. "Of course the noise is going to be loudest to his ears and it must affect him at least a little bit. But business is business."
Letang, 32, has won the Stanley Cup three times with the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017). Center and captain Sidney Crosby is 31, as is Kessel, and Malkin is 32. Letang said his teammates' age and experience, in addition to their talent, should send a signal to general manager Jim Rutherford and others that Pittsburgh's core group should remain intact.
"The teams that win tend to be older teams," he said. "When we won [in 2016 and 2017], we were an older team. The Capitals last year? Old team. The two teams in the final this year (the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues)? Old teams. Younger players need to be shown the steps and how to take them. I'm not saying that because I'm an older guy now. I'm saying it because I lived it. I won a Stanley Cup at 22, and I won at 28 and 29. It just seems to me that a lot of young guys aren't supported as well as they should be.
"You see what's happening in Toronto, it's a phenomenon that's going to happen to other teams. … Your younger players are supposed to provide your depth. Now you're starting to see your older guys on third and fourth lines … I think some teams are trying to get too young too quickly."