“We see a future with this core,” Hextall said Wednesday. “These guys have been here a long time. We had a good year. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core.”
The East Division champions are smarting from a six-game loss to the New York Islanders — the team’s third straight first-round playoff exit — but Hextall will spend his first offseason with the team retooling around Crosby, Malkin and Letang rather than rebuilding.
Hextall said he expects to have all three back next season “for sure.” The same apparently goes for goaltender Tristan Jarry.
Hextall, hired in February after Jim Rutherford’s abrupt resignation, expressed confidence in Jarry despite the goaltender’s shaky playoff performance. Jarry’s ill-advised outlet pass in Game 5 led directly to Josh Bailey‘s game-winning overtime goal. He followed it up by allowing five goals in Game 6 as Pittsburgh’s season came to an abrupt halt.
“I don’t think we would have been where we were without Tristan, and we all have to remember Tristan is a young player,” Hextall said. “He’s going to learn from this and he’s going to come back better in September.”
Hextall said he and president of hockey operations Brian Burke are in sync with two-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Sullivan.
“Of course we’d like to add a little bit of size, a little bit of toughness. Yes, it would be nice,” Hextall said. “But there’s not a lot out there. We’ll look at what’s there this summer and we’ll make adjustments. But if we go into next season with this group, we’re comfortable.”
Hextall stressed the team remains in “win-now” mode heading into 2021-22. Pittsburgh’s streak of 15 consecutive postseason berths is the longest active streak in major North American professional sports.
“We’re comfortable with our team,” Hextall said. “We had a real good regular season and played well in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean we won’t look to get better. You always look to get better. If we can find ways to tweak things and get better, we will.”