As the NHL trade chatter increases, perhaps we know what Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall meant at the 2022 NHL Draft when he said he had “balls in the air.”
On the latest 32 Thoughts podcast, Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman also confirmed our reports and analysis that Malkin’s emotions were a holdup in the process.
Friedman said the Penguins had a trade in place at the draft, but it fell through late in the process. Connecting possible dots, last week, we reported that Hextall and Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes had multiple extended conversations at the draft.
“Someone told me Pittsburgh had a D trade at the draft that fell apart late. But they wouldn’t tell me what it was.”
Earlier this week, GM Ron Hextall stirred the NHL trade rumors when he admitted the Penguins must shed a defenseman, possibly two, before the start of the season in October. The Penguins signed Jan Rutta to a three-year deal with a $2.75 million AAV. Rutta, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning, became the ninth NHL defenseman on the Penguins roster.
“If we could move a defenseman maybe for a forward, something like that, or if we could move a defenseman for futures, those are the types of things that we’ll be looking at. I don’t know when or where,” Hextall conceded.
Over the past few weeks, Pittsburgh Hockey Now also reported that Montreal forward Josh Anderson, not the oft speculated defenseman Jeff Petry, was a possible Penguins trade target. Given that defenseman Kris Letang signed his contract before the NHL draft, Anderson makes the most sense.
“Someone told me Pittsburgh had a D trade at the draft that fell apart late. But they wouldn’t tell me what it was,” said Friedman.
We’ve also reported that multiple teams called the Penguins leading up to the NHL trade deadline about young defender P.O Joseph, a Quebec native, who just signed a two-year NHL contract last Monday.
As with all NHL trades, it takes two teams to agree. What one GM wants to deal isn’t always what other teams want to receive. PHN feels Hextall may be forced to give up a defenseman that he would prefer not to trade. Or two.
Evgeni Malkin Contract
One of our controversial bits of analysis was “Emotional Malkin vs. Pragmatic Penguins.” Our column stirred debate and (hopefully) encapsulated the process as best as we could report it.
Friedman confirmed as much.
“The biggest thing with Malkin was getting him to cool down. On Monday, he was so emotional. How do we get him to cool down? I’m sure Crosby played a role in it. I’m sure others played a role in it,” said Friedman. “But I think the whole thing was, can you get Malkin to cool down. By Tuesday afternoon, he was. They had it done that night.”
Hextall couldn’t say what changed between Monday when sources told colleague Dave Molinari that Malkin would test free agency and Tuesday night when the Penguins announced the deal after 11 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Penguins inked Malkin to a four-year, $24.4 million deal. The contract qualifies as a 35+ contract, which means if Malkin retires before the end, the cap hit will remain until the end of the term.
Malkin “won” if you consider getting the fourth year and signing bonuses at the end of the contract, which also makes it buyout proof, and a full no-movement clause.
32 Thoughts co-host Jeff Marek said he believed multiple teams were prepared to offer much larger annual salaries over a shorter period, though he stopped just short of reporting that to be true.