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Penguins roster could return intact next season

Malkin may need surgery; short offseason, goaltending remain questions

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Four days after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins packed their gear Thursday, already facing some issues before next season begins.

The most significant concerns forward Evgeni Malkin, scheduled to have an MRI on Friday to determine if surgery is needed to repair an injured elbow.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday there is a 50-50 chance Malkin will have surgery, which could prevent him from participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, which begins Sept. 17.

"I don't have the medical update yet," Rutherford said. "I do think that a surgery like that, it does take a little bit longer to heal … This is a guy that had a real serious injury that played before most guys would have played and made a contribution to the team. It just shows his character. It was pretty impressive."

Malkin, who would play for Team Russia, said he would vacation in Miami with his family before preparing for the upcoming season.

Forwards Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin, defenseman Olli Maatta and goalie Matt Murray will have particularly short breaks; each will prepare to play in the World Cup.

The Penguins enjoyed cleaning out their lockers for the first time in seven years, and looked forward to their day with the Stanley Cup this summer. Some began their offseason by traveling about 15 miles east to attend the first round of the 2016 U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club.

Few had any concrete plans but expressed excitement for when their time comes.

WHAT THEY SAID: "I love the guys on this team. I love the way we play. I love winning. There's no place in the NHL that treats players better than we're treated here." -- defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

THE BURNING QUESTION: Which goalie will start when next season begins? If Marc-Andre Fleury remains in Pittsburgh will he reclaim his position? Or will Matt Murray carry the load after winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie?

Video: The crew discusses what's next for Marc-Andre Fleury

INJURIES: Center Nick Bonino had his left elbow wrapped because of an infection he dealt with throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Forward Bryan Rust broke a finger on his right hand during the third period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

WHO COULD GO: Lovejoy and defenseman Steve Oleksy, forwards Matt Cullen, Kevin Porter and Kael Mouillierat, and goalie Jeff Zatkoff can become unrestricted free agents.

BIGGEST NEEDS: If the Penguins are unable to sign Lovejoy or defenseman Justin Schultz, who will be a restricted free agent, they will need to add some depth at the position. That could be helped by defenseman Derrick Pouliot progressing to fill that potential void. If Cullen, 39, retires, forward Oskar Sundqvist could replace him as a bottom-six forward.

2016 DRAFT PICKS: Five (two second round, one fourth round, one fifth round, one sixth round).

REASON FOR OPTIMISM: The Penguins shouldn't experience much change between now and next season. The roster has been retooled during the past two seasons and should remain relatively intact for 2016-17. That could be key because the roster, as assembled, is built to take advantage of coach Mike Sullivan's system, which relies on speed and aggression.

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