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Evgeni Malkin Value: Comparables, Performance, and Replacement Cost

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin

So, what exactly is Evgeni Malkin worth to the free-agent market or the Pittsburgh Penguins?

That is the question that agent, player, and organization have been trying to figure out since last summer. Now just three weeks and a few days from the free-agent frenzy, the clock is ticking loudly. Answers will be forthcoming, but perhaps not until the entirety of those three weeks expires.

Evgeni Malkin’s career resume has few equals. Not only has he won the Art Ross Trophy twice, but the Hart Trophy and Conn Smythe. When his career is over, he’ll likely finish as the second-highest scoring Russian player of all time, ahead of Hall of Famer Sergei Federov but behind Alex Ovechkin.

There’s no other active Russian player within 600 points.

When healthy, Malkin’s recent production has been exemplary, too. This season, Malkin hit the 20-goal mark for the 13th time and scored 42 points in 41 games.

Last season, he slipped to 28 points in 34 games, but the season before, he put the Pittsburgh Penguins on his shoulders and carried them while Sidney Crosby recovered from core muscle surgery. In 2019-20, Malkin soared to 74 points in 55 games.

However, in that 2019-20 season lies the microcosm of the risks and rewards of re-signing Malkin. He carried the team and garnered Hart Trophy consideration and votes but also wore down late in the season and was injured. He played just 55 of the 69 games before COVID wrecked the season.

Malkin was injured in 2020-21 and played just 34 of the 56 games. In addition to recovering from an injury, he also suffered a severe knee injury later last season, which required major surgery in June.

And of course, he was out until Jan. 11 this season.

Malkin poured in the points, but he wasn’t necessarily effective until later in the season.

In the last seven seasons, Malkin has played more than 80% of the games twice and only thrice in the last nine years.

In other words, expect Malkin to play no more than 68 games in subsequent seasons if he and the Penguins settle on an agreeable number. Given the severity of Malkin’s knee injury in March 2021 and the surgery, the risks of a catastrophic injury would seem to be increased, too.

So, what is a soon-to-be 36-year-old center who can score a point per game but is expected to miss at least 15-20 games each season? The list of comparables is small. There aren’t many players like Malkin, and fewer hit free agency.

Perhaps the best method is to look at other centers in the same age bracket with similar production and compare salaries, regardless of when the center signed.

Anze Kopitar, then 28, signed an eight-year, $80 million contract in 2016.

Nick Backstrom, then 32, signed for five years and $46 million with the Washington Capitals.

Logan Couture, then 30, signed an eight-year, $64 million contract with San Jose in 2019.

The comparables take the players to 36, 37, and 38, respectively. They also carry $10 million, $9 million, and $8 million cap hits.

Working backward, GMs were willing to pay centers at Malkin’s age between $8 and $10 million.

The first comparable free agent would be Joe Pavelski.

Pavelski was a fine player but not in Malkin’s stratosphere in San Jose. After three successive 60-plus point seasons, Pavelski signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dallas Stars in 2019.

So, we can point to a market range of $7-$9 million after removing Kopitar’s deal that expires at age 36.

That’s the financial market, now the on ice…

Evgeni Malkin On-Ice Value

Points are nice, but they’re not exactly the story. If a baseball player hits 50 home runs but strikes out more than anyone else and leaves more runners stranded, what do the home runs mean in context?

Similarly, goals and points can be a slightly flawed metric on which to base a contract.

How does the player affect the team game, momentum, and that pesky stat–goals against.

Despite 42 points in 41 games, Malkin was a minus-10 this season. In the last four seasons, Malkin is a minus-32 combined, including his disastrous gong show campaign with Phil Kessel in 2018-19, in which he was a minus-25. Last season, Malkin was a minus-4.

Boiled down, Malkin is getting a goodly number of points on the power play, but at 5v5, the other team is scoring more.

He’s a damning statistic: when Malkin’s line was on the ice this season, the goalies had just an .896 save percentage.

Conversely, when Jeff Carter was on the ice, the Penguins goalies stopped .902.

Worse, Malkin had a 61% Corsi, meaning his line had the puck but still yielded many goals against. Malkin’s line is giving up Grade A scoring chances and lots of ’em.

Over an 82-game season, Malkin was on pace for about 44 even-strength points and 40 power-play points. He was on the ice for 23 even-strength goals for and 29 against, according to Natural Stat Trick.com.

Evgeni Malkin Replacement Cost

Let’s examine the projected 44 even-strength points. Over 82 games, Malkin would have been on the ice for 46 even-strength goals and 58 goals-against.

Vincent Trocheck had 39 even-strength points (15-24-39), so now we’re getting somewhere.

Trocheck was also a plus +21. He was on the ice for 48 goals-for–two more than we projected for Malkin, but only 29 goals against, half of what we projected for Malkin.

Yet Trocheck scored only 51 points in 81 games, whereas Malkin popped 42 points in just 41 games. So, don’t rely strictly on points. Trocheck’s value and benefit to his team were statistically greater than Malkin’s.

(We’re using Trocheck as a reference point because he could be the most highly sought center on the UFA market if the Colorado Avalanche can re-sign Nazem Kadri). 

Ryan Strome would also rank ahead of Malkin and possibly cost less than $7 million.

Nor have Trocheck and Strome been hindered by injuries. One would expect them to play more than 80% of the games over the life of a new contract.

Other UFAs like Paul Statsny and Andrew Copp would mathematically improve upon Malkin’s performance, but probably not with the same second-line responsibilities.

So, what is Evgeni Malkin worth? We can estimate the replacement cost at about $7 million, which would improve the Pittsburgh Penguins. So, based on replacement cost, which could improve the Penguins, Malkin’s value is less than $7 million.

Perhaps $6 million?

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Paul
Paul
15 days ago

Like I said weeks ago, I would dump Malkin and use his money to aggressively pursue Nikushkin as a UFA. If you watched Game 1 of the SCF, you might have recognized him as the best player on the ice. He’s a star on the come, plays 200 feet, kills penalties and can play on the PP. Oh, and he’s nine years younger than the Turnover Machino. #JustDoIt

Ron
Ron
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Yea he’s also playing with faster younger players put him her with Carter, Dumoulin, Kapanen, Boyle, & Ruhwedel see how he does SPEED helps make Centers. Other than MacKinnon who else can score at center like Malkin given better wingers?

Cal
Cal
15 days ago

Whatever money is spent on more than 1 year contracts will work against the possibility of signing Nathan MacKinnon as he becomes a free agent next year. Now that’s a guy you spend 10 mil plus on.

Last edited 15 days ago by Cal
GBG
GBG
15 days ago
Reply to  Cal

Maybe one of the few guys Crosby eventually (somewhat / barely willingly) yields the first line center spot to?

DaGama
DaGama
15 days ago
Reply to  GBG

Although qualified with “eventually” it’s still blasphemous!

Paul
Paul
15 days ago
Reply to  Cal

Why would MacKinnon want to hook up with an irrelevant team here when Crosby can join a potential dynasty there? The Lanche have the best young talent in the league, and if they resign Nikushkin this offseason, it won’t even be close.

Last edited 15 days ago by Paul
David
David
15 days ago
Reply to  Paul

MacKinnon isn’t coming here and Crosby isn’t going there.

David
David
15 days ago
Reply to  Cal

MacKinnon isn’t coming here.

Dean
Dean
15 days ago

I agree $6M or less is the right range. They could replace him in the $5.5-$6M range and the value of those players could go up over the contract term. Malkin’s will go down.

Move him to the wing and bring in Copp at $5.5 M over 6 years. Copp can play center.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
15 days ago
Reply to  Dean

I agree with that and move him to wing with a solid 2 way center.

Ron
Ron
14 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Yes saying Malkin has been hurt the last few seasons, but so has Crosby. You want Copp who’s on the ice with better & faster players. Also one major factor is if you touch him Reaves will knock your block off. Tell me who do the Penguins got to fight back Rust, Rodriguez, Carter, we have nobody to protect any of our top name players look what happened to us in the playoff game against the Flyers when that cheap shot artist Giroux did to Crosby. Give him some wingers speed not afraid to go in corners. Look at the… Read more »

Kris
Kris
14 days ago
Reply to  Ron

WHO Ron, Who?

Kris
Kris
14 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Until Copp doesn’t score 30 goals and then he’s garbage just like Zucker, right?

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
15 days ago

That seems fair and I would potentially add performance bonuses that are positive for the team. Plus, you need to get him guys that are upgrades in some manner to play with. He had zero help, and that definitely soured the 5 on 5 stats.

Kris
Kris
14 days ago
Reply to  Rich Filardi

You do know performance bonus’ cost against the cap in the following season right?

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
15 days ago

Another interesting item to ponder, have to sell tickets in this business to stay afloat. Who will sell more tickets and Merch? It matters cause winning will help, but you need a draw to get the most of out your base.

Kris
Kris
14 days ago
Reply to  Rich Filardi

The local kid who comes in and plays 200ft hockey and is available for more than 80% of the games. Trocheck sweaters would be new item. Anyone who wants a Malkin sweater already has one.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
15 days ago

$7 million? Pay the man, Hextall!!!

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
15 days ago

I’d expect malkin to have a much better season this year then the past 2. Hes older now and training is much more important. Since the 2019-2020 season geno hasn’t been able to train in the off-season due to covid (Russian rinks were closed) and then his injury last year. With a better training program this off-season he may not get back to the mvp type season but I would expect his best season since 2019-2020

David
David
15 days ago
Reply to  Zane Gearhart

The Russian rinks were closed? He is rich. He can easily structure a state of the art home gym. And as far as skating, it’s Russia. I’m sure, COVID or not, there were places available. Or maybe just don’t go home to Russia during the off season if all the rinks are closed.

Pete
Pete
15 days ago

Gotta get younger and tougher. 71 has had a good run. His numbers will get worse soon. Use the $ on young guys rising.

David
David
15 days ago

$6 million tops for 3 years tops. But I bet they pay him $7.5 for 4 years.

Bob
Bob
15 days ago

Will all these re-placement players mentioned above actually have a better chance to play a full season unlike Malkin the last 3 years? Probably. Every year the past 3 at the beginning of the season he quotes I’m ready to have a good year and ends up on the shelf again. Does Pittsburgh really want this and to take a chance of this same soap opera happening again? Time for an offensive/defensive type player and not re-sign one who doesn’t get back into the Defensive end fast enough or hangs around waiting for the other plays to do the work… Read more »

Knobman
Knobman
14 days ago
Reply to  Bob

I agree. I would go hard after Trocheck and Nick Paul. Paul would be the third line center and Carter moves to third line RW. Those two would cost about the same as what Geno has been making. You don’t need to replace Geno’s point production. Playing a responsible game will more than make up for that. I would also sign Deslaurier for the fourth line LW spot. He and Paul would be added to the PK and add size and grit.

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Ron
Ron
14 days ago

Besides on the power play Malkin is like Ovechkin great at one timing the puck from the right side. Not playing the point Again give him Rakell, & a faster fearless player like Copp or Tkachuk. O’Conner would even be good on his line if Sullivan would let him stay up and play When our big players were out and we were winning at beginning of the season O’Connor was number seven in rookie scoring before Sullivan sent them back down and that’s without Malkin and Crosby.

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Keith T.
Keith T.
14 days ago

In the past the Pens have spent significant money on centers on the top 2 lines. While it has served them incredibly well, it has also crippled them with solid quality depth issues. Experiment after experiment with wingers on the top 2 lines and having a 3rd & 4th line of roster patchwork it leaves little hope of quality depth. Typically it was cast-off from other teams that had players who had promise. Kessel worked out for a few seasons but his lack of D awareness had run its course. As much as I loved Letang & Malkin and the… Read more »

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Rob
Rob
14 days ago

Unless Hextall can trade out some salary somehow, finding a younger, better player to center the 2nd line will be impossible. Re signing Malkin is the best option i see at the moment. That could change, but Hextall has to get bold and creative. I am not sure that he has that in his repertoire

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