Keeping the core together.
That’s the goal for Ray Shero and his front office staff in Pittsburgh.
So far, they’ve achieved that mission this summer as they signed center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Brooks Orpik to long-term contracts on Wednesday. Those two join center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Ryan Whitney, who both inked multi-year deals last season, as players who took less money to stay in Pittsburgh. The moves ensure the Penguins’ core will remain intact for many years to come.
“I think we’re in a really good position. Our goal was to re-sign these core players,” Shero said. “We’re very confident in the group we have. Last year was a great and exciting year for us. The experience our guys have had is really going to benefit us, moving forward. The goal for us coming into this is to re-sign our core players. Our successful offseason is trying to maintain our core group. Evgeni Malkin told me he is interested in staying in Pittsburgh and wanted to sign a contract and that’s what we accomplished.
“By signing Mark Eaton and Brooks Orpik, we’ve really solidified our defense, which I am happy about. Up front, in terms of where we’re going to go, there are certainly some decent options out there for us,” he continued. “We have the greatest young group in the league, I believe, and most of these guys are under contract. We still have Marc-Andre Fleury to go and I am hopeful we can get something worked out in the next couple of days. It’s a great core to have and I am sure many franchises would trade their core for ours.”
In addition to Fleury, another part of the Penguins’ core that is targeted for a contract extension is Jordan Staal.
“I’ll talk to Jordan sometime in the summertime and express the interest in trying to extend him. I think it was important for me to express the importance he has on this team,” Shero said. “With a Ryan Malone leaving, and Ryan did such a good job for us last year as we all know. To me, Ryan Malone leaves and Jordan Staal is going to take that ice time. That’s the next step in his career and that’s what he has to do. We’re fortunate that a guy like Jordan Staal is going to be getting that power play time now and the critical minutes, which is the next step in his career. I am very happy that Jordan will step into that role and he will certainly be ready for it.”
Shero knows there are some holes to fill in the Penguins’ offensive lines. He is confident the team will remain strong.
“We have guys who have called me to express their interest in playing here, same as last year. They want to play here and that’s my interest. I am happy that Brooks Orpik took less money to play here; he wants to be here. Evgeni Malkin wants to be here,” Shero said. “Last year, Petr Sykora was a great example. Come on in, we have a great thing to offer and a great thing going. Pittsburgh is a great young franchise and I am looking forward to the start of the year.”