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What we heard about Malkin, Letang, Rust and more from Penguins exit interviews

There are two ways for an NHL club to break up for the offseason: a Stanley Cup parade, or a clean-out day. The latter features players’ exit interviews with coaches and management and season-ending sessions with the media — and it’s what the Penguins took part in Tuesday.

It’s not a secret that this summer is seismic for the history and the future of Pittsburgh’s franchise. There are 10 players on expiring contracts, including eight impending unrestricted free agents.

Many of those players spoke Tuesday, with Evgeni Malkin serving as the star attraction given his uncertain future.

“I love this city and the fans … it’s my second hometown,” Malkin said. He said he hopes to sign for three or four years on his next contract but that his agent will handle negotiations with the Penguins.

Sources tell The Athletic that Malkin’s camp found an in-season offer “insulting,” an offer of an annual average value around $5 million per season on a multi-season deal. Malkin said Tuesday that details of the Penguins’ offer were “not true,” but sources said the money and term “is in the ballpark, close to home plate.” Malkin also said Tuesday that it was not true that his Russian hometown team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, had already offered him a contract.

Read more from Malkin’s season-ending media session.

Regarding Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang, also a pending UFA, coach Mike Sullivan offered a glowing endorsement of their contributions to the Penguins over the past 16 seasons.

“It’s hard for me to articulate what these guys mean to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization,” Sullivan said. “When you look at the legacy that has been built the last 16 years, those three guys (Malkin, Letang and captain Sidney Crosby) are cornerstones. There’s probably a reason why they have played for this organization as long as they have. They’ve established the standard for what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. They’re the guys that have built the culture of the organization.”

Letang said Tuesday that he and general manager Ron Hextall “are clear” they’ll keep any contract negotiations details “between ourselves.” Letang added he would give the Penguins a chance to match any offer he could potentially receive in free agency.

Letang said he sees himself playing another four or five seasons. Sources said the Penguins made an offer to Letang that is similar to the one they made to Malkin during the regular season.

As for Crosby, he reiterated Tuesday he did not feel a need to influence any decisions the Penguins would make regarding Malkin and Letang.

“I think they pretty much know how I feel,” Crosby said.

The Athletic has been told by sources that the offers the Penguins made to Letang and Malkin “did not sit well” with Crosby.

Some other takeaways from Tuesday:

• Sullivan said Crosby was not cleared to play in Game 6 by team doctors. A team source said Crosby passed a concussion test before Game 6 and was held out by management. “The report is false,” Sullivan said. “Sid was not cleared by our team doctors. Our team doctors always have the last say.”

Crosby said he was cleared to play in Game 7 Sunday morning.

“There’s a process we have to go through,” he said.

Crosby reiterated that he hadn’t been asked to play for Team Canada at the IIFH World Championships.

“I haven’t talked to anybody about that,” he said.

• Crosby said he wants to play “three (seasons) for sure. … We’ll see after that.” He has three years remaining on his current contract with the Penguins. Crosby joked Tuesday he was not surprised that Malkin said he hoped to play “three or four” more seasons and Letang said “another five.”

• Sullivan also said it’s probably “premature to (say) in any substantive fashion” regarding how many roster changes he anticipates for next season. One change that won’t occur is behind the bench, as multiple sources told The Athletic that new ownership — Fenway Sports Group — has already determined Sullivan will return as coach.

• Defenseman Brian Dumoulin said he did not finish the Penguins’ opening-round postseason series loss against the Rangers because of a Grade-3 MCL tear. Dumoulin, who has had surgeries to repair foot and ankle injuries in recent seasons, said he tried to wear a brace on his injured knee but that it did not provide enough support for him to play after he was injured. Dumoulin is not believed to require surgery to repair the injury.

• Goalie Casey DeSmith had core muscle surgery after he was injured in Game 1 against the Rangers. Also an unrestricted free agent, DeSmith said being unavailable for the remainder of the Penguins’ series a year after not being able to play in Round 1 because of another core injury was “frustrating.” DeSmith did not say if he’s had any talks with management about returning.

• Winger Kasperi Kapanen expressed frustration with his up-and-down season. He said he feels “at home in Pittsburgh,” but conceded he needs to rediscover “my swagger.” Kapanen is a restricted free agent and it is not known if current management wishes to retain his services.

• Winger Bryan Rust, another impending UFA, said his family will play the primary role in any decision he makes regarding his future. A team source told The Athletic that management favors keeping Rust but is pessimistic because “the market for him will be competitive.” Rust has emerged as a regular top-six winger after spending his early seasons in more of a utility role.

“I feel like I outplayed my current contract,” Rust said, alluding to his $3.5 million AAV that sources predicted he could potentially double on the open market this summer.

(Photo of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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