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Have Malkin and Letang Played Their Last Games With The Penguins?

The Pittsburgh Penguins' first-round playoff elimination wasn't just the end of their Stanley Cup hopes for this season. It could also be another chapter closing on the most successful era in franchise history.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins' first-round playoff elimination wasn't just the end of their Stanley Cup hopes for this season. It could also be another chapter closing on the most successful era in franchise history.

Penguins stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are both completing eight-year contracts and are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Cap Friendly shows Malkin, who turns 36 in July, completing an eight-year deal with an annual average value of $9.5 million. The 35-year-old Letang's annual salary-cap hit is $7.5 million. 

Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Malkin and Letang both expressed an interest earlier this season in remaining with the Penguins. Fenway Sports Group, the club's new owner, also seemed willing to keep them in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Seth Rorabaugh reported Penguins management have informed their respective agent that they won't be getting similar cap hits on their next contracts. He indicated there seems to be little progress in negotiations thus far.

With a projected $54.1 million invested in 15 players for 2022-23, the Penguins have sufficient cap space to enable Malkin and Letang to finish their careers as Penguins along with captain Sidney Crosby. However, both might have to accept short-term contracts with significant pay reductions.

Meanwhile, Bryan Rust is also eligible for UFA status. He's flourished playing on Crosby's line but Vensel wondered if the Penguins are willing to make a long-term investment in a 30-year-old winger who battled injuries this season.

It seems unlikely all three will be back in Pittsburgh next season. The Penguins could re-sign the more affordable Rust and decide between Malkin or Letang. It's also possible those two have played their last games for the Penguins. 

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