Sidney Crosby update

BUFFALO -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas intends to keep contract negotiations with center Sidney Crosby close to the vest.

Crosby has one season remaining on the 12-year, $104.4 million contract ($8.7 million average annual value) he signed July 1, 2012. He is eligible to sign another contract July 1.

"The key for us is, because of the importance of it and how much Sid means to the organization and the city, we want to keep that as quiet as possible and go through it," Dubas said Saturday while attending the 2024 NHL Scouting Combine. "And then hopefully as we get through this summer, get a sense where everybody's at and then let everybody know at the right time."

The 36-year-old led the Penguins this season with 94 points (42 goals, 52 assists) in 82 games. It was his 19th season averaging at least a point per game, tying Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history.

Crosby is 10th all-time with 1,596 points (592 goals, 1,004 assists), and he's eight goals from becoming the 21st player in NHL history to score 600.

But the Penguins (38-32-12) finished three points behind the Washington Capitals for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, the second straight season Pittsburgh failed to qualify for the postseason, the first time that's happened since Crosby entered the League as the No. 1 pick of the 2005 NHL Draft.

Dubas, entering his second offseason with the Penguins, said the priority is trying to add younger talent around their veteran core of Crosby, center Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson.

"I think the thing that I've really learned in the year is that we really have to do everything we can as urgently as possible to infuse the organization with really high-quality younger players and give ourselves a chance to add that by adding draft picks, adding prospects in any chance we can get," Dubas said. "Because if we can do that, while those players are still playing, that standard [core of] Sid, 'Geno,' Kris Letang, Erik Karlsson, Bryan Rust set, that just helps young players come in and get up to speed quicker."

Dubas said that process began when forward Jake Guentzel was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 7 for forward Michael Bunting and three forward prospects -- Vasily Ponomarev, Ville Koivunen and Cruz Lucius.

Ponomarev, 22, and Koivunen (turns 21 on June 13) being a bit older and closer to being NHL-ready was a selling point. Ponomarev had a goal and an assist in two games with the Hurricanes this season.

"The key in going through the [NHL Trade] Deadline was trying to add players that were a bit removed from the draft rather than just add the most draft capital and really try to dig in," Dubas said. "Carolina has got a very deep prospect pool, so try to do our work and find the guys that could come in. We think both Ponomarev and Koivunen coming in will be a bit close.

"We're trying to strike that balance of not just focusing just on draft capital or just on ... younger players, but on trying to find that mix in everything we go through."

The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft also will be important for building that young base of prospects. They traded their first-round pick to the San Jose Sharks in the deal for Karlsson and have six picks total.

Dubas said he's spoken with other general managers during his week at the combine and will continue them between now and when the teams convene at Sphere in Las Vegas for the draft. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS), and rounds 2-7 on June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1).

"The major focus for us is on right now acquiring as many young players, as many prospects and as many draft picks as we can to try to infuse the team with really good young talent, young players and then have that stocked up for the future as well and attempt to get us back into contention as quickly as we can," Dubas said.