Every so often, a reader will toss out an opinion, or buried within a comment is a nugget that merits more exploration. Such a moment happened on Monday as the Boston Bruins finally inked center Patrice Bergeron to a one-year contract. Bergeron is 36 years old but remains one of the premier centers in the game and a perennial Selke vote-getter. He signed for much less money, and term than the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to pay Evgeni Malkin.
Here’s the full Bergeron and David Krejci signing story from our boys who cover the Boston Bruins.
The contract is $2.5 million for one-year, face value, but has another $2.5 million of incentives built into it.
Malkin, of course, signed for four years at an average valuation of $6.1 million, which was like pulling teeth. The news didn’t break until after 10 p.m. the night before free agency. The day before, sources told our Dave Molinari that negotiations had broken down and Evgeni Malkin would indeed test the free agent market.
Heck, maybe later this month, we’ll publish Shelly Anderson’s pre-written stories. In addition to one ready to go if Malkin re-signed, she had one ready to go if Malkin signed elsewhere. All she had to do was plug in the team and details.
But does Bergeron’s bargain contract cast Malkin in a bad light, as some readers suggested?
It may surprise you. I won’t say yes, but I also won’t say no. The mental status of the two players seems to be completely different. Bergeron took his time to decide if he truly wanted to continue playing in the NHL. Malkin had no such hesitation, nor does Malkin view himself as 36 years old. Call it a hunch, but Malkin doesn’t view himself as old or at the end of the line. He may intellectually know it, but I have no sense that his heart feels it.
And so, his heart wants to be paid commensurate with the player he feels that he is, not a 36-year-old center who hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
Greed? No. But a much different mental position. You can determine if that puts Malkin’s contract in a bad light, but just remember–athletes get one career. When it’s over, it’s over. You and I can work until we’re 80. Not even Jaromir Jagr can play hockey that long. So, an athlete has every reason to get every last dollar on the table, especially in a final contract.
For most of a decade, Sidney Crosby and Malkin made $2-3 million less per season than Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and others; you can’t say they didn’t sacrifice for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh Penguins Blue Line Options
On Monday, we examined the Penguins’ fit with the four teams on the NHL trade market that have salary cap space to spare. The Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, and Arizona Coyotes each need different things and have different agendas.
One item no one has referenced is GM Ron Hextall’s strategy of stacking depth.
He did it in net when he signed college free agent Filip Lindberg last summer despite already having Calle Clang and Joel Blomqvist in the pipeline. The depth allowed him to trade Clang to Anaheim as a featured piece in the Rickard Rakell Penguins’ trade.
This summer, he stacked the NHL blue line. Despite having P.O Joseph at the ready, Mark Friedman and Chad Ruhwedel on veteran minimum contracts, and Jan Rutta signed, Hextall slyly sniped young defenseman Ty Smith from New Jersey for John Marino.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have nine defensemen, but they have almost an infinite set of options to create their best blue line and can move one or two via the NHL trade route.
The worst that happens from the surplus is that Ty Smith goes to the WBS Penguins, or both he and Mark Friedman distance themselves from Joseph, who becomes very expendable.
Or Joseph lays waste to the competition, and Smith becomes an interesting trade chip.
Or…Rutta plays the left side.
Hextall has options. He may not like what other teams demand to move a salary or offer in return for his assets, but he can absorb a trade loss in exchange for money. Or can take another swing for a young player like Smith.
Options. Hextall clearly likes to amass depth and contingencies before he makes the leap of faith.
Sports Now PGH Links
Steelers Now — SN+: Larry O made a pad-popping statement. Since the weather forced the cancelation of the big practice at Latrobe high school on Friday, the Steelers went back on Monday. The crowd was nuts. Larry Ogunjobi made a physical statement. Pittsburgh Steelers coverage.
Alex Highsmith and Diontae Johnson left practice. Steelers injury updates.
Pittsburgh Baseball Now: The Pirates’ three stars of the week – Pittsburgh Pirates recap.
PBN+: Ok, Mr. John Perrotto and I strenuously disagree on one baseball issue. It involves steroids and those who obviously and blatantly used, even if the law never truly caught up with them. The Pirates announced their inaugural HoF class, but JP says it’s missing one big name. Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame.
And lastly, I didn’t quite make it all the way to my hotel before torrential downpours swept off the lake and pounded me on the motorcycle. I won’t say which lake or where I’m holed up for the night. My jeans are still soaked, and my shoes are drying on the AC. However, a few minutes later, all was calm before even heavier storms rolled through. I suppose these are the perils of being the one who gets to pick the location for the next business meeting but also one who never reads the weather forecast.
We’re going to try to replicate what we’ve done in Pittsburgh in a few other cities. Look out.