Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins controls the puck against Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders

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Dunlap: Game 4 Could Be End Of An Era (Kind Of)

Colin Dunlap
April 15, 2019 - 3:29 pm

Take a long look. A good look. A really extended and protracted look at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night out on that ice inside The Mansion That Mario Built. 

Because this could be the final time they are ---- fully, at least ---- the team that you have come to know. It’s head-scratching and strange, to be sure. Perhaps this era (or at least some pieces to it) could all come to a really unceremonious end.  

If they win, the Penguins keep playing. 

Or get a reprieve, however you want to look at it. 

But if they lose … 

Could this be the final time we see Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform? The fans undoubtedly love the guy, but his meaty contract coupled with his “do they like each other or hate each other?” quizzical and often puzzling relationship with Mike Sullivan could force a change when this season ends. Who knows, maybe a new home out West somewhere? Again, he is a fan favorite and I actually love the mystery with which he comports himself, but I’m wondering if his expiration date just might hit in Pittsburgh.

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Could Patric Hornqvist, who when he’s playing at the top of his game is so great but this season hasn’t, well, played at the top of his game, be shuttled off in the offseason? After all, the Penguins aren’t shelling out more than five million bucks a year for Hornqvist to occasionally be a difference --- they need him to wreck some heads deep in the offensive zone every single night. Hornqvist is the type of glue guy all good teams need and if he’s not great (pretty much on a nightly basis) doing all the little stuff, teams might try to find someone cheaper who will do all the little stuff. 

Would the Penguins consider trading Evgeni Malkin if they stumbled across the right opportunity? For he is an aging superstar who is undeniably a core and generational member of the franchise but might be able to draw a wonderful return (and clear salary) if general manager Jim Rutherford would feel so inclined to look for a dance partner. 

Could Olli Maatta be sent out of town? Maybe someone even like Kris Letang could be traded away? Albeit Letang plays a ton of minutes and is incredibly valuable, the Penguins seem to have an uncanny way of being OK when he misses games? 

I’m not advocating trading anyone, but isn’t it a bit obvious by now that Rutherford isn’t the type of GM who sits and waits for things to shake out --- rather he’s the guy who elects to be proactive. 

Tuesday night will be curious in a lot of ways. Will the Penguins fight back and provide some hope? Will the Penguins do the unthinkable and get swept? Will they give the effort everyone has said has lacked in the past few games? 

Who knows. 

But what I do know is this could be the last one this season. And when it does come to an end, I wonder just what the fallout will be. ​I wonder just what this team will look like moving forward.

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