Evgeni Malkin wants to play three or four more years, but don’t expect to see him at PPG Paints Arena this Sunday. Recognizing the end is closer than the beginning, but also staying in the present, Malkin’s rehab progress with the Pittsburgh Penguins is drawing positive reviews from head coach Mike Sullivan and defensemen as he weaves around them in practice drills. Wednesday, he had the media room laughing as he uncorked a few one-liners about his game and specifically about his contract status.
To get this out of the way, expect Malkin back next week. Maybe in seven to 10 days, but probably not this Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.
It’s been more than six months since his knee surgery on June 3. For players in their mid-30s, serious knee surgery can often mean the end of a career. However, Malkin’s rehab and practice work doesn’t look like a player at the end.
It was also his choice not to have surgery last March after the initial injury. Evgeni Malkin said the team’s strong Stanley Cup chances led him to rest instead of getting it done right away. He termed it a difficult conversation with doctors who gave him a choice in March. Malkin could have waited and rested to see if he could play again last season. That was his first choice, but after being one of the Pittsburgh Penguins best players in their Round One loss to the New York Islanders, he had a second MRI, which came with bad news.
That’s when he chose to go under the knife. He didn’t want to worry about his knee every game and getting hit in the corners.
“…After the Boston game last year, and I did MRI the next day (March 17), and we had a discussion with (a team doctor), and it’s a hard discussion. He said you could try to play without surgery. Those are your options. I wouldn’t have played in the playoffs last year without a great team, and I think we had a chance,” Malkin said.
“I only worried when somebody hit me in the corner–my knee not swelling up. We lost in the first round, and I did an MRI again. The second MRI showed a little bit worse, and it was a hard choice. I waited a couple of days and decided that, yeah, I needed surgery. I want to play like three or four years more, and I didn’t want to worry every game about my knee. Now my knee is 100% stronger.”
Malkin packs a lot into his sentences, doesn’t he? The takeaway was that he soldiered through a severe knee injury, but now that he’s had surgery, don’t expect a decline–expect him to be better than before.
“It was a hard choice. Last year was not a great year for me. Sometimes it happens,” he concluded.”One of the positive things — my last knee injury, I came back it was one of my best years.”
There is that, too. On the contrary, Malkin admitted he wants to play three or four more years. That’s when this scribe asked about the elephant in the room.
Malkin doesn’t have a contract beyond this season.
“I’m not thinking about my contract, I’m not thinking about money. I’m, like, a pretty rich guy,” he laughed.
So, perhaps he won’t be asking for $10 million next season? That slap you heard was his agent J.P. Barry’s head on his desk. But the cheering you heard may have been from Penguins fans as Malkin essentially signaled he wouldn’t pound the negotiating table across from Ron Hextall.
Even the elephant in the room probably chuckled. Perhaps there will be less difference between Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins than seemingly exists between Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, and the org regarding new contracts.
So, Evgeni Malkin is stronger than before. He doesn’t need money. And he’s beginning to dazzle in practice but won’t play for about seven to 10 days. Now you’re all caught up on the Full Malkin.