LAS VEGAS -- Sidney Crosby said he believes the Pittsburgh Penguins can be champions again, but even he isn't sure who will be on the team next season.
"We believe in our group," the Penguins captain said at NHL Awards Media Day on Tuesday. "Obviously there's always going to be turnover, but there was turnover when we won, there was turnover when we had years that didn't go as well. It's just the nature of playing, and you understand that."
There already has been turnover for Pittsburgh this offseason. Defenseman Olli Maatta, a member of the championship teams in 2016 and 2017, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
General manager Jim Rutherford told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Monday that forward Phil Kessel, also a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, vetoed a recent trade, and there have been trade rumors surrounding center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang, though Rutherford said those veterans are unlikely to be moved.
"I don't think you can get caught up in the chatter too much, but I think it's definitely tough, especially when you are talking about guys who have been involved with the team for a really long time," Crosby said. "It's not easy to hear those rumors, but that being said, we all have to be professional about it and find a way to make sure we're ready and we're better next year."
The Penguins, who have won the Cup three times in Crosby's 14 seasons with Pittsburgh (also 2009), were swept by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round this season after they went 44-26-12 to finish third in the Metropolitan Division.
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"When you lose, there's always more questions, there's always more of that talk and chatter," said Crosby, who is here for the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). "But sometimes there is a lot said and nothing happens, and sometimes there's not a lot said and a there's a ton of moves, so you can't try to predict what's going to happen or anticipate anything, you just let everyone do what they need to do."
Crosby, who scored 100 points (35 goals, 65 assists) in 79 games this season, is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL player voted to be most valuable to his team. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid are the other finalists. The winner will be announced during the show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center sports and entertainment complex.
Crosby scored at least 100 points for the first time since the 2013-14 season but had one assist in the series against the Islanders, which ended April 16. Instead of playing for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, Crosby went to Europe, where he did some sightseeing and training.
"It's probably the longest offseason I've ever had," the center said. "I think with all the years we had early exits, I played in World Championships, played hockey at some point later on. I have to make the most of the rest and be ready to go start of next season."