Evgeni Malkin is a pretty rich man, and he’s not thinking about money. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ generational talent with a trio of Stanely Cups to go with two Art Ross, one Hart, one Ted Linday, and one Conn Smythe trophy wants to play for three or four more years. And the wondering begins there.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall said last summer the organization would get to contracts for Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, and Malkin after free agency.
Well, that’s come and gone. We know that the org and Letang have significantly differing opinions on how much longer Letang can play hockey. We know the org, and Bryan Rust didn’t find any common ground when they chatted last summer, either.
So, where does that leave the Pittsburgh Penguins and Evgeni Malkin?
By all accounts, Malkin is, or was, supposed to retire with the Penguins. From ownership through the former GM and player, it’s supposed to be until retirement do you part. However, there are new owners, a new GM, and questions about Malkin’s knee.
But with one quick comment and his typical whit, Malkin melted Penguins fans. While grabbing a late dinner in a little tavern, others discussed the PHN headline (that felt pretty good, thanks). While others focused on Malkin’s statement that he’s not thinking about money, we focused on “I’m, like, a pretty rich guy.”
The humor landed well.
It elicited optimism that Butch and Sundance, Malkin and Sidney Crosby, would ride into the sunset together, or at least Penguins fans won’t be subjected to seeing Malkin in an opponent’s sweater. Maybe it’s OK to get attached again and believe.
That’s how quickly his laugh and joke changed things. Malkin is galloping on the ice in practice. He began stickhandling around defenders on Wednesday.
“I think Geno’s looking stronger and stronger with each additional practice,” head coach Mike Sulivan said. “I think he’s getting more confidence in the rehab process with each additional practice.”
Penguins fans may also find optimism in Malkin’s outlook on his knee surgery.
“Now my knee is 100% stronger,” he said. “…one of the positive things, my last knee injury, I came back it was one of my best years.”
Perhaps in the same way that shoulder surgery elevated Zach Aston-Reese‘s game, knee surgery will make Malkin more durable?
Evgeni Malkin Contract:
With the cards on the table, Malkin’s contract figures to be a three or four-year deal. Just how serious was Malkin when he said he’s a rich guy and not thinking about money? It was funny in part because it’s true.
Let’s look at past comparables.
2021: Ryan Getzlaf signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Getzlaf is engrained in Ducks culture and history–he’s the last of the 2007 Stanley Cup championship team. Getzlaf is 36 and was not producing at nearly the same rate as Malkin.
So, we can set a base well above $4.5 million.
2019: Soon-to-be 35-year-old Joe Pavelski walked from the San Jose Sharks. One of the locker room leaders and offensive leaders didn’t get the love from San Jose and signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Dallas Stars.
Pavelski notched 38 goals and 64 points in 75 games, so from a numbers standpoint, Pavelski isn’t a bad comparison on term or valuation.
Evgeni Malkin Production and Health
Despite a season that didn’t start well, Malkin caught fire with Kasperi Kapanen before suffering the current knee injury in mid-March. In 33 games, Malkin scored 28 points (8-20-28).
In 2019-20, Malkin was on fire from start to finish. If not for a late-season injury and COVID shortened year, Malkin was on pace to surpass 100 points. Malkin popped 74 points (25-49-74) in 55 games.
Malkin was above a point-per-game in the previous two seasons, too. In 2018, he compiled an impressive 72 points in 68 games and roared for 98 points (42-56-98) in 2017-18.
So, where do we go from here?
The big guy left a lot of money on the table over the years. Being able to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguins player was always the plan. Recall the early pandemic interview with his wife.
“…if (Malkin) consulted with me, I would like to move to one of the most beautiful cities, where he will lead the team. (He) probably would say no,” Malkin’s wife Anna Kasterova told a Russian interviewer in June 2020. “If he takes the fourth Cup, it will happen in Pittsburgh. A good manager, coach, and team atmosphere are very important. Pittsburgh has it all. They love him there, and he (loves them) too.”
And the plan may call for one season in the KHL.
“I think that in the end, yes. That would be honest, right. I think his career will end (in Magnitogorsk),” said Kasterova.
Maybe a four-year deal works best? The amount will allow the Penguins to spread the cap hit over four years. There is some gray area on what would happen if Malkin signs a new contract but goes to the KHL before his NHL deal is over. Pavel Datsyuk’s cap hit still counted in Detroit when he left for Russia in 2016, but Datsyuk didn’t retire. Detroit traded Datsyuk’s cap hit to Arizona for a flip of first-round picks.
Arizona selected Jeff Chychryn. Detroit picked Dennis Cholowski. In other words, a big win for Arizona.
The New Jersey Devils were able to terminate Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract back in 2013, but such maneuvers come under scrutiny and aren’t something to rely upon. So, if the Penguins sign Malkin to a four-year deal, they should expect to pay for four years.
Given Pavelski’s $21 million deal and the relationship between player and team, we’re going to peg the Evgeni Malkin contract at three years, $24 million. If he jumps at the Penguins first offer, perhaps $21 million over three years. He can always sign a one-year deal in 2025, right?
Of course, there is one big hurdle remaining. Malkin must prove his knee is capable of playing in the NHL, and he’s capable of keeping pace. If those conditions are met, it sounds like a contract will be easy? But if he doesn’t meet those conditions, perhaps the decision will be easy, too.