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Malkin’s Value to Penguins: Sentimentality vs. Pure Business



Evgeni Malkin

It seems that center Evgeni Malkin has become a polarizing figure with the Pittsburgh Penguins faithful. There is an element of sentimentality and appreciation for the long-time team core player. There is also a faction that has turned on him, apparently because they think he has become bad for business.

Malkin is 37. He’s no longer that galloping force who piled up over 100 points three times, who won the Art Ross Trophy scoring title twice, a Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Award and, way back in 2007, a Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.

There is little question that the three-time Stanley Cup winner is not the same player he was, say, 10 years ago, and he’s fallen a little below a point-per-game pace.

So, what is Evgeni Malkin’s value at this stage?

Judging from social media posts, comments on published content, and some talk show fodder, opinions began to rapidly diverge when Malkin’s and Kris Letang’s contracts were ending after the 2021-22 season. The Penguins re-signed both core players, with the third core player, Sidney Crosby, already signed through 2025.

Malkin’s deal barely beat the deadline before he would have become an unrestricted free agent, although the Penguins clearly were intent on keeping all three players together for the rest of their playing careers if at all possible.

Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin (71) talks with Sidney Crosby during a timeout in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals in Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 25, 2023. The Penguins won 4-3. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The divide between those who still appreciate Malkin and those who would like to see him move on, or at least have a diminished role, seemed to grow further after the Penguins missed the playoffs last year for the first time in Malkin’s career. They are outside the playoff picture this season at the All-Star break.

It doesn’t help Malkin’s standing with some that Letang and, in particular, Crosby, both 36, are having age-defying seasons. Crosby, the team’s only All-Star representative, leads the team with 27 goals and 50 points and has been electric most nights. Letang is fifth on the team with 29 points but is also excelling at a slightly redefined role that includes strong defensive and penalty-killing play.

Does that make Malkin — who ranks third on the team in goals, 16, and points, 40, through 46 games – some sort of albatross around the Penguins’ neck (to stick to the bird motif)?

He had a strong start, with 17 points over the first month of the season. By the eye test, he also looked dominant, and he and first-year Penguins winger Reilly Smith seemed to be developing wonderful chemistry.

Things have tailed off some, and Malkin now has a revolving set of wingers, which no doubt has affected his game.

His value seems to be based on whether the view is of a future Hall of Famer who still can contribute or a former superstar whose skills have eroded with age to the point that he is hurting the Penguins.

Sentimentality vs. it’s just business.

First, remember that Malkin has a full no-movement clause in his contract. He’s not going anywhere unless he wants to, and all indications are that his heart and soul are still heavily with the Penguins.

Let’s look more deeply at his value.

Malkin’s salary cap hit is $6.1 million, and he is signed through the 2025-26 season.

Some of the players around the league who are within a couple points of Malkin at the All-Star break, with their salary cap hits, are Travis Konecny ($5.5 million), Charlie Coyle ($5.25 million), Ryan O’Reilly ($5.5 million), Claude Giroux ($6.5 million), Nick Suzuki ($7.85 million), Brady Tkachuk ($8.2 million), Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), Jonathan Marchessault ($5 million), Cole Caufield ($7.85 million) and Brock Nelson ($6 million).

(All salary cap figures courtesy of

In particular for those on the side of Malkin not bringing enough value at this stage of his career and who are looking at it from a straight-up business angle, it seems as if the Penguins in fact are paying Malkin a representative amount.

Yes, some of his 40 penalty minutes have come on ill-advised moves at eye-rolling times. He has always been an emotional player, which works both ways. He has not been able to spark an anemic power play. And that own-goal in a frustrating loss against Arizona was a bad look. He, well, owned up to that.

Still, if you resist the urge to hold Malkin to the standard of what he once was, it certainly seems as if his value as a second-line center stands up overall, at least to this point of the season. The schedule gets brutal down the stretch as the Penguins push to get into the playoffs.

So who is right – those who appreciate Malkin for all that he has brought to the Penguins and still see value at the latter stage of his career, or those who believe he has outlived his usefulness and should be part of the past as the Penguins get down to business and move on to the next chapter?

The needle probably should nudge toward the former.