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Pens Players Brace for Changes

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Just 36 hours after losing Game 7 of their Second Round playoff series against the New York Rangers, the Penguins gathered at CONSOL Energy Center Thursday afternoon for the final time to clean out their lockers.

“There is a disappointment whenever you don’t win the Stanley Cup,” forward Chris Kunitz told the surrounding media throng. “You put high expectations on yourself. It’s a huge disappointment when that doesn’t happen. Our management and staff put us in a very good spot to go out and be successful. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and you wish you could have done something different.”

The Penguins' goal every season is to win the Stanley Cup. Every year they are one of the top contenders. Anytime they fail to meet that standard there will be disappointment and changes.

Every season a hockey team undergoes changes. That’s normal in the offseason. Every year the Penguins organization re-evaluates everyone from top to bottom to determine the best strategy moving forward.

“As an athlete and being a part of this team the expectations are high, and if you don’t deliver then you have to own up to that as players and as an organization,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We all understand that. It’s part of the way it works. We’ll see what happens from here.”

One area the Penguins need to make decisions is regarding their roster. There are 14 players up for unrestricted free agency, including Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Tomas Vokoun.

“I have no idea what the future will hold,” Jokinen said. “I really enjoyed my time here. I hope I can be back. But there are a lot of decisions this organization has to make. I’m one of them. We’ll see what the summer brings.”

Center Brandon Sutter will be a restricted free agent, but made it well known where he would prefer to play in the 2014-15 season.

“We have a great group and a good team. There’s a lot of negativity right now, but we have a good team that has a chance every year,” Sutter said. “We have to get better. We have to improve. But we have the right guys going forward.”

The Penguins also have several players entering the final year of their contracts, like Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury also made it clear that he wanted to be wearing a Penguins sweater next season.

“I really hope I can stay. It’s my team here. It’s where I want to play,” Fleury said. “This team gave me my first opportunity and a chance to play in the NHL. The organization from top to bottom – Mario (Lemieux), Ron (Burkle), the staff, the players, the fans and their support, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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