The Pittsburgh Penguins are letting go general manager Craig Patrick after almost 17 seasons of service with the club.

Patrick's contract with the Penguins won't be renewed when it expires July 1, team president Ken Sawyer announced Thursday.

The team is starting a search for Patrick's replacement.

"We have tremendous respect for Craig and are very grateful for his many contributions to this organization over the past 17 years," Sawyer said in a statement. "However, I and our board have decided that it is time for a change."

Patrick has been GM of the Penguins since 1989. With Hall of Fame forward Mario Lemieux leading the way, Patrick's Penguins won two Stanley Cup championships and five division titles during the 1990s.

Patrick was forced to dismantle much the Penguins' core after the team filed for bankruptcy protection in 1998.

The Penguins have missed the playoffs every season since 2000-01. That year, Lemieux made an unexpected return to the ice after a 44-month retirement to guide the team to the Eastern Conference final.

Pittsburgh hockey fans had new reason for optimism during the 2005 off-season when the club drafted teen phenom Sidney Crosby with the first overall pick. Patrick, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, also added veterans Ziggy Palffy, Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair and Mark Recchi.

It didn't work.

Even though the 18-year-old Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points, the Penguins fizzled, finishing last in the Atlantic Division for the fourth straight time.

with files from the Sports Network