The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated from the postseason quicker than most expected, but general manager Jim Rutherford confirmed this isn't the end of the line for a core that has won three Stanley Cup titles since 2009.
"I plan to move forward with the core. These are good players," Rutherford added in Tuesday's press conference. "They still have good hockey left in them. I always have to say, if some amazing trade comes along, you have to look at it, but I will not actively be looking at trying to trade our core players."
Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin have each spent at least 14 years in the NHL, all with the Penguins, helping the team become the most consistent contender in the sport. The team had reached the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the last 13 years.
However, a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round ended Pittsburgh's run shockingly early this time around. Rutherford was clearly unhappy with the result.
"There is something wrong," he said, per Josh Yohe of The Athletic. "Changes need to be made."
Mike Sullivan has been the team's head coach for five seasons, leading the team to two titles, but he appears to be on the hot seat.
The Penguins still had a solid season despite dealing with terrible injury luck, including Crosby and Jake Guentzel missing significant stretches. They finished with the fifth-most points in the Eastern Conference and a seven-game series against the No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers could have been an interesting one in a normal season.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic derailed the usual plans, leading to a 24-team restart and five-game series for everyone outside of the top four teams in each division.
The Penguins instead had a five-game series against the Canadiens, who would have been well out of the playoffs under regular circumstances. Some mistakes by Pittsburgh and strong play by Carey Price was enough to lead to a quick upset.
There appears to still be confidence this main group can contend for another Stanley Cup.
Crosby still had an efficient 47 points in 41 games this year, while Malkin had 74 points in 55 games. In a full season, these players would once again be among the top offensive players in the NHL. Letang was also reliable while averaging over 25 minutes on the ice per game for the sixth straight season.
If this group can stay healthy in 2020-21, the Penguins should be back in the familiar spot near the top of the standings.