The Pittsburgh Penguins made a trio of major moves last month on the cusp of the franchise having missed the postseason for the first time since Sidney Crosby's rookie year of 2005-06. Maligned general manager Ron Hextall, assistant general manager Chris Pryor, and president of hockey operations Brian Burke were all let go, signaling a dramatic turn in the direction of the team.
And we're getting a more clear idea of some of the more eyebrow-raising details of what went down during Hextall's tenure in Pittsburgh. According to leaked text messages from Penguins veteran star Evgeni Malkin, he didn't trust the management team prior to his agreeing to continue his career in Pittsburgh with a contract extension that didn't seem to be a possibility at this time last year.
Take a look at this excerpt from a recent piece from The Athletic authors Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe detailing what seemed to be a burned bridge between Malkin and Hextall/Burke:
"By July 11, 2022, Malkin was convinced he’d already practiced in Cranberry for the last time.
After tucking in their son, Nikita, Malkin and his wife, Anna, sat on their leather couch and looked at a summary sheet of Hextall’s latest offer: four seasons, $24.4 million total, a full no-movement clause.
Malkin was fine with what he read. The sticking point was his bruised feelings.
“They not think I good player,” Malkin wrote in a text message to Crosby.
“They not want me,” Malkin texted to Letang, who had stepped up efforts to console Malkin after signing his deal.
Malkin wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, but he no longer trusted either Hextall or Burke. Crosby and Sullivan intervened. Each spent hours on the phone with Malkin as July 11 became July 12. Careful not to tell him what to do, Crosby and Sullivan implored Malkin to “not worry about those guys” — Hextall and Burke — when making a final decision. Letang, too, jumped into the mix."
The story then goes into detail of two particular moves that Hextall made that angered the rest of the players - the waiving of Brock McGinn as well as trading Teddy Blueger in the middle of a team function.
"Hextall later enraged players and coaches by putting Brock McGinn on waivers while McGinn was enjoying some family time on the team’s annual “dad’s trip” in Nashville. Sullivan was forced to deliver the news."
"Hextall traded Teddy Blueger during the same trip. In the middle of a dinner with the players’ fathers, arranged by Crosby at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Blueger learned via social media that he had been dealt to Vegas. He and his dad abruptly left the restaurant. Crosby rushed to console his now former teammate and after a few minutes returned to the dinner. "That’s not how we do things in Pittsburgh,” he said. Crosby remained mostly quiet the rest of the night."
The rest of the explosive piece can be read here. Needless to say, a change in the front office was absolutely needed in Pittsburgh.