It is easy to forget how close Evgeni Malkin came to playing elsewhere this season. It’s easy to brush past the trade reports from Pittsburgh Hockey Now and national reporters who learned of at least one team making a strong offer which must have tempted Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. And it’s easy to forget the lingering frustration Malkin had with the situation, and perhaps even he wondered if it was time to go.
And in those moments, it’s also easy to see how cooler heads prevailed and that no one really wanted the relationship to end, especially under those negative terms.
The Penguins formed a caravan including Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan to travel to the 2019 World Championships in Slovakia to have a heart-to-heart with Malkin. The player had things to say. The coach had things to say.
And Evgeni Malkin rededicated himself to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Negative influences and feelings were swept away. And Malkin began this season with a chip on his shoulder, which easily weighed a few tons.
“I want to show everyone I’m not done,” Malkin declared in training camp.
And then he was injured just a couple of games into the season. Things could have gone sideways. Spiraled.