Ranking the 5 Players Likely to Spend Their Career with the Pittsburgh Penguins
There is something special about an athlete spending his entire career with a single club—something we don’t get to see as much in today's world of professional sports.
Money makes it so much easier nowadays for a player to give up on the city that drafted him. Greed isn’t the only reason that players tend to seek new opportunities, but it is still a shame to see less and less of guys sticking it out with their original team.
When you look back at the storied history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, many former NHLers have worn the black and gold for their entire career. Greats like Mario Lemieux are almost god-like in the Steel City, and they have even dedicated a statue to him.
I’ve listed here the current Penguins who, in my opinion, have the greatest chance of playing the rest of their careers in Pittsburgh. I based my rankings on popularity with fans and the city as well as what it would take to actually get the player to leave the club.
Salary cap information courtesy of CapGeek.com
5. Brooks Orpik
I love Brooks Orpik. He has had a great career in Pittsburgh that began when he was drafted in 2000. Since then, Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury remain the only players on the current roster that have played for the team before the 2004-05 lockout.
However, I understand that his talent has subsided since Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup back in 2009. The Pens will have their hands full this offseason trying to squeeze under the salary cap, and Orpik could very well be a victim.
I am picking Orpik here because he can still offer leadership to a young, upcoming defensive unit with tons of potential. I think, without question, he finishes his career as a Pen if he is given a chance to, and does, re-sign.
4. Olli Maatta
19-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta was a steal in the 2012 NHL draft. He was the Penguins' second first round pick that year and played in 78 games in the 2013-14 season—netting nine goals and 20 assists.
This defensive core that the Penguins' front office has built over the past few seasons has given the club one less area to worry about. Maatta has gained the respect of not only his teammates, but the fans as well.
Pittsburgh has a fan base that expects to win, and seeing the number of jerseys and t-shirts with Maatta's name and number on the back when I walk downtown has proven to me that they trust in him.
The fact that Maatta has handled the limelight with such composure and humility makes me believe he is ready to make Pittsburgh his hometown for a while.
I ranked him fourth on this list because of his age. He is so young that his future remains cloudy, but if he keeps improving on his rookie performance then there is no doubt that he stays in Pittsburgh for a very long time.
3. Kris Letang
A lot of fans want defenseman Kris Letang to be traded, and with the team’s tight cap situation, I think there is a chance that he could be on the move before next season.
Despite that chance, I don’t believe new general manager Jim Rutherford has any plans to trade "Tanger" away. He even stated on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan that he is fond of the 27-year-old defenseman: “He’s a very talented player. He prepares himself properly, and he’s a guy that can play big minutes...I like Kris Letang. I think he’s a very good player.”
Letang struggled in many facets of his game last season, especially in the turnover department. I can see why some fans are eager to see him leave. If Rutherford was being truthful in his statements about Letang then I don’t see him being moved.
His new eight year, $58 million contract extension kicks for the 2014-15 season—which includes a no-trade clause. The contract doesn't expire until 2022 when he will be well into his 30’s.
If Letang survives this offseason, it's safe to say that he’ll be around for a long time—whether Pittsburgh fans like it or not. He was a Norris Trophy nominee at the end of the 2012-13 season. One shaky season isn't enough to call for his head.
2. Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin has been through a lot as a Penguin. He has won the Stanley Cup, Art Ross and Calder trophies all while adapting to a new culture and new language. Did I mention he was also the first and only Russian to win the Conn Smythe?
Pittsburgh is Malkin’s home away from home. The fans love him for his quirky attitude and electrifying scoring skills.
Malkin is signed through 2022, and the only way I see him leaving is if the cap situation gets a little too tight in the future and he must be traded. However, the team has a ton of time before they even have to remotely think about this. The front office will trade away others in order to keep the Russian phenom on the roster—he is just too talented to slip away
1. Sidney Crosby
Pittsburgh loves Sidney Crosby, and Sidney Crosby loves Pittsburgh.
Crosby is the best player in the world, and though some have said otherwise, his skill set is so utterly amazing that it baffles me how someone could be so good at this game.
Crosby is following in the footsteps of his mentor, Lemieux, who spent his entire career in the ‘Burgh. It was Lemieux who took Crosby under his wing and introduced him to the city and what it had to offer.
Of course, no player is ever 100 percent safe. Wayne Gretzky was involved in the 1988 trade to the Los Angeles Kings that shocked the sports world. I highly doubt Crosby will ever experience the same fate as “The Great One,” but as the old cliché goes: Anything is possible.
I predict Crosby, who is signed through 2025, will stick around with the Penguins until the day he finally hangs up his skates. I’m sure a Hall of Fame induction will follow soon after.