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Crosby wants to play at least three more seasons with Penguins

Center can be unrestricted free agent after 2024-25; Malkin, Letang contracts end this offseason

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Sidney Crosby said he would like to play at least three more seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The center has three seasons remaining on a 12-year, $104.4 million contract ($8.7 million average annual value) he signed July 1, 2012, and can be an unrestricted free agent after the 2024-25 season. 

"Three more, for sure," Crosby said Tuesday. "We'll see after that. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. Three, definitely." 

The 34-year-old Penguins captain said he'd like center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang, each a pending UFA, to be part of those three seasons.  

Malkin, 35, said he could play another three or four seasons. Letang, also 35, said he would play no less than "four, five years. Easily." 

"Glad to hear that 'Geno' said three and 'Tanger' said five-plus, probably," Crosby said. "I'm not surprised either, by either of those answers. Those are pretty much par for the course right there, but glad that they're looking to keep playing. They can. They're playing at a high level." 

Malkin did not play until Jan. 11 after having offseason knee surgery. He had 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games, the final season of an eight-year, $76 million contract ($9.5 million AAV).

Malkin said he would retire with the Penguins, given the choice. 

"I understand it's a business," Malkin said. "I love this city. I love these fans so much. If the team wants new blood, young guys, and say to me, 'You should move on,' I'm fine. I understand it's a little bit of a tough year for me, but we'll see. I'm glad to be here 16 years.

"It's a great city, great fans. We'll see what's going on. … I hope I stay here forever, like retire here."

Letang, who played the final season of an eight-year, $58 million contract ($7.25 million AAV), said he and general manager Ron Hextall agreed to keep contract negotiations private and that the Penguins would get a chance to match any offer from another team.

"We're clear to each other that we're not mentioning anything to anyone," Letang said. "It stays between me and the team. … I always signed extensions in the past. I know what to expect. It's always been the main goal, to stay here and play in Pittsburgh. Don't know what to expect.

"I certainly tried to build something good here. Just want to keep it going."

The core of Crosby, Malkin and Letang won the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017. Pittsburgh has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the 16 seasons since Malkin and Letang entered the NHL in 2006-07, Crosby's second season.

Crosby's 1,108 games are the most played in Penguins history, ahead of Malkin (981). He and Malkin are second and third in goals (Crosby, 517; Malkin, 444), assists (Crosby, 892; Malkin 702) and points (Crosby, 1,409; Malkin, 1,146), all behind Mario Lemieux. Letang is first among defensemen with 144 goals, 506 assists, 650 points and 941 games.

"It's hard for me to articulate what these guys mean to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization," coach Mike Sullivan said. "When you look at the legacy that has been built here over the last 16 years, those three guys, I think, are the cornerstone of that excellence."

Malkin called playing with Crosby and Letang "amazing."

"It's like my two brothers, one Canadian and one French Canadian," Malkin said. "I love them both. It's not just hockey, it's life. We've spent so much time together. … Sid's an amazing guy. He's like my favorite player, favorite guy."

Crosby had 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 69 regular-season games and 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in six games against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round. He missed Game 6 because of an upper-body injury before returning for Game 7, a 4-3 overtime loss.

Malkin had six points (three goals, three assists) in the first round, and Letang had four points (one goal, three assists). Letang had an NHL career-high 68 points (10 goals, 58 assists) in 78 regular-season games.

Each said he remains capable of playing at a high level. Crosby agreed.

"We all feel the same way," Crosby said. "We've been fortunate enough to play together a long time. We've been through a lot. I think you look at all of those experiences, there's a lot of belief, a lot of trust in one another. With that, we've had success too, so there's also a confidence level.

"That's very rare. We all appreciate that. That being said, we all understand it's not something that can happen forever. But hopefully a little bit longer, hopefully we continue to play together. It's unique. It's special."

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