Connect with us

Opinion

Kingerski: Do or Do Not, There is No Middle with Malkin Trade Talk

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins trade talk Jim Rutherford, Evgeni Malkin

The offseason may be short, but it now appears we’re in for a fall of heavy-duty Penguins trade rumors and speculation after Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford declined to “put to bed” a potential trade of Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang.

The Penguins put the Malkin issue to sleep in the last offseason despite a healthy offer from Florida. Sources recently told PHN the Penguins trade talks were further along than we initially reported.

To leave the possibility open now was an error unless the opportunity is legitimately on the table.

“The best way to answer the question is: I’m not shopping (Malkin). I’m not shopping our core players, but we all know that in our game, one of the great, if not the greatest player (Wayne) Gretzky was traded,” Rutherford began on the Two Man Advantage podcast on Tuesday. “You want to always listen if somebody’s got something to offer.”

Would Rutherford have said the same if asked about Sidney Crosby? How will Evgeni Malkin react to being left exposed?

The answer to the latter could have future implications. Malkin renewed his commitment last offseason to prove he was still a great player. He mostly succeeded with 74 points in 55 games and was named the team MVP.

Another round of Penguins trade rumors could have a negative effect.

GMJR

Rutherford is the polar opposite of former Pirates GM Neal Huntington and even Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan in regards to answering public questions. While Sullivan usually prefers to speak with vague compliments to avoid divulging information, and Huntingdon could often be incomprehensibly unspecific, Rutherford typically answers questions with a matter of fact honesty.

In an age of media training and forced vanilla personalities, lest even a single fan takes to Twitter to be outraged, Rutherford is fresh air. If he receives criticism, it’s not for dishonesty but from those against his view of the situation.

Consider this criticism of his view of the situation.

“I’m not in a hurry and not trying to trade any of those top guys,” Rutherford concluded.

The middle, or hedging a bet, is not the position in which Rutherford has put the Penguins.

Rutherford just pushed the Penguins all-in on the 2020-21 season with his expensive acquisition of Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Multiple other reports indicated other teams, such as the Carolina Hurricanes, who are arguably closer to a Stanley Cup than the Penguins, declined the steep price that the Penguins quickly paid.

Yet another report indicated teams in the playoff bubble were upset they didn’t get a chance to bid on the Penguins 15th overall pick. In analogous terms, Rutherford walked onto the car lot and paid sticker price for the car he wanted without much shopping around.

So, the Penguins system, which is mostly bereft of legit NHL prospects, will not have a first-round pick in 2020 or 2021. That is going all-in for a core trying to capture a fourth Stanley Cup.

“You wonder about guys, they have won two, three Cups, and they have a great legacy already,” Rutherford said. “You still want to win, but do you still have that same drive as when you were trying to win the first one. And the second one. And the third. I sit there and wonder sometimes.”

Wrong for Hockey Reasons

Let’s translate GM speak, in this case, based on everything we know. Last offseason, the Penguins were close to dealing Malkin, but after reflection, it didn’t happen. Malkin is still a Pittsburgh Penguin because Sidney Crosby stepped forward to put the brakes on the move. Team sources also believe owner Mario Lemieux would ultimately say no to future moves, as well.

If you missed the small PHN expose a couple of weeks ago, here it is. It was quite the high-noon drama inside the Penguins last summer.

After Rutherford pushed his chips all-in on the next couple of seasons, leaving the door ajar on trading Malkin is not only surprising but would be wrong. It’s not wrong for any sentimentality or emotional reasons, and not wrong because it was settled last season, but wrong for hockey reasons.

The short answer is the Penguins would be without a second-line center. Max Domi is the only thing approaching a second-line pivot who may be available on either the free agent or NHL trade market.

Teams don’t trade top-two centers. They especially don’t trade top-line quality centers.

Like many of you and Malkin’s wife, I would like to see what Evgeni Malkin would do if he led a team by himself. I think the results would end in a Stanley Cup, if at all possible.

However, the Penguins are all-in NOW. There isn’t the time or ability to backtrack. To acquire Kapanen, then deal Malkin would leave a giant hole in the middle.

It would be like buying expensive rims for your new car, then selling the engine.

We haven’t even discussed Malkin’s No-Movement-Clause, which means he gets final say over any moves. Last May or June was the time to deal Malkin if it was ever going to be.

Florida is undergoing upheaval and will likely lose multiple core players via free agency without replacement.

Rutherford not slamming the door shut was a mistake and may inject a little turmoil into the Penguins’ attempt to brush past recent failures and large signals that the championship run is ending. It may also add to ill-feelings from the locker room.

Rutherford was honest and full points for it. But there is no middle ground on an Evgeni Malkin trade. Do or do not. There is no listening. The effect of listening could hurt the very mission on which Rutherford has embarked.

Now, about the potential for the Penguins trade of Kris Letang…

Subscribe to PHN+

Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

12 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Katz
Katz (@paul)
1 year ago

This ‘walking on eggshells’ about Malkin’s emotional reaction regarding possible movement has to end. It’s a business. Failure is the current reality. Malkin May or maybe not stay , most likely he stays , to preclude the teams ability to hear offers means guaranteed salary without any risk. Very unfair to the Franchise? Too bad if Malkin sulks. What if no team is interested in Malkin’s Contract? What does that say about Malkin? Malkin should be mature enough to understand he is very handsomely paid and his performance in the recent playoffs has been lethargic and unproductive. Accept what’s within… Read more »

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

Well said.

Joy
Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

Basically, sit down and shut up Geno, be happy with your GM questioning whether you want to win another Cup. That’s your take here? Malkin could easily have left to lead his own team years ago, but stayed because it’s better to have two superstars than one. Imagine Pittsburgh without Malkin’s 36 points in 2009, his 30 points in 2017, his willingness to play a third line role in 2016 after coming back when most other superstars would have been given their line back. Carrying this team for months at a time for the last 14 years including just last… Read more »

Josh James
Josh James
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

You miss the point. When it’s used as a threat consistently against a player that Rutherford doesn’t even have the power to trade even if a thousand offers came in it is disingenuous. Knowingly advancing and fostering this notion is a message. When the GM targets the very same player (target used because he isolates the same one or two with the same false narrative for 3 straight years now) whom only the day before his teammates voted MVP as available for trade due to consequences of the teams disastrous finish it absolutely puts said player into the narrative of… Read more »

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago

Hey Dan is there an article coming about Letang?
I know it seems that this discussion comes every year but I have to wonder about this year in particular. With the emergence of Marino and a few cheaper, quality RHD available, and what seems like interest in Murray in general, what do you think about a deal being made involving Letang? If there was ever going to be a year where it happened I think this one would be it.

Katz
Katz (@paul)
1 year ago

Letang is staying. You know how I know? Todd Reirden was just hired.,while Washington is cheering his departure, and I’m thinking a poor addition, he is for the PP and Letang.

Boy is he hated in Washington though.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katz
Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi (@richi81)
1 year ago

IMO, wrong piece of the Core to trade- if your moving into that area- 58 would be the piece i would move. He has never been the best at his position, all though very good, think local media has elevated him higher than he is.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago
Reply to  Rich Filardi

Letang used to be the guy who could join the rush, circle around the ozone with the puck, create a ton of chances, then use his speed and smarts to be the first guy back. I was always amazed at his ability to be seemingly always be there at both ends of the ice. He had amazing speed and could recover so quickly if he got caught deep. There was a long time where I think he deserved to be in the Norris conversation and was underrated. Now I think local fans and some media still believe he is that… Read more »

Joe Pietropaolo
Joe Pietropaolo
1 year ago

Comparing the situations of Gretzky and Malkin is way off. There were many underlying reasons for the LA trade and the STL and NYR deals were also under different circumstances. I guess the primary issue would be if Geno turns into Jagr and wants to leave. Being that he has no comrades in the Pens O, he may want to leave for a team with more Russians. He’ll always be the Mark Messier of the team as long as Sid is here. Nothing wrong with that! IMO, I think GMJR is looking for potential deals that would bring in another… Read more »

jackw
jackw
1 year ago

I lose more confidence in Rutherford with every public statement he makes. He was able to make a couple of key trades around Malkin, Crosby and a very talented team, and it led them to two Cups. Since then he hasn’t shown the ability to build anything. This year wasn’t about a great GM or coach, it was about Malkin stepping up to lead the team when Crosby was out – hence his teammates voting him MVP.

Trading Malkin would not “extend the window”, it would slam it shut.

Josh James
Josh James
1 year ago

I’m at a point now which I thought to be impossible nearly 6 weeks ago. I now loathe our GM more than our coach. And I CAN’T STAND Sullivan! He is far to rigid, stubborn, plays favorites and makes hockey decisions on the on ice product into personal decisions. Oh, and he’s overrated. But Rutherford has become more arrogant and his diatribe of using the media to make threats is unprofessional, childish, at this point it’s transparent and, oh…given that he’s done far more damage to the Pens fall from grace than any single player who underperformed, he is hypocritical.… Read more »

Join PHN Extra!

Join PHN+ today for exclusive content from Dan and Shelly plus a completely Google ad-free experience.

PHN+

Or enter your email below to sign-up for our mailing list.

Thank you!

Something went wrong.

No thanks. I don't want.