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Kingerski: Time is Up For Malkin and Letang — Sign Now or Move On

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin

The contract discussions for Pittsburgh Penguins stalwarts are coming to an end. Either way, we’ll have a decision in July. After Penguins president of hockey ops Brian Burke spoke with colleague Dave Molinari and a national radio audience on Wednesday, the situation appears to be as firm and clear as the Quebec ice hotel.

Perhaps as cold, too.

The Penguins and GM Ron Hextall have set valuations. Like any good negotiator, I’m sure Hextall can fudge those numbers a bit, but not much. We’re in crunch time and it doesn’t sound like the sides are close.

“So we have to figure out what Kris Letang wants to do, and what Evgeni Malkin wants to do. Once we determine that, then other pieces will fall into place. For now, we’re waiting on these two guys. That might not be the case much longer,” Burke told Molinari.

Burke would have said optimistic things if the sides were close to a deal. Instead, after saying the players would sign at a number that makes sense, or they wouldn’t sign, he explained further to NHL Home Ice.

“Our job is to be as fair as we can, dealing with our cap numbers and budget as best we can,” Burke told the radio hosts. “We’d like both players to come back–that’s going to be determined by the two players themselves.”

At the risk of putting words in Burke’s mouth, the ball is in Malkin and Letang’s court. The puck is on their stick.

As this process has played out, I have advocated signing Malkin and Letang. My cap hit for the pair would be capped at $16 million annually, but a five-year deal for Letang is too dangerous. Just as the danger of dead money exponentially increases for Malkin after two years.

I’ve also added signing Letang to almost anything he wants and nuking the Penguins blue line to pay for it.

However, after a deal didn’t get done by later June, my take evolved to advocating the Penguins pull back. Sign the other players, such as Rickard Rakell, Casey DeSmith, maybe Kasperi Kapanen, or Danton Heinen, and then put the remainder on the table for the star players.

Inferring from Burke’s comments, the Penguins have taken a similar path, albeit in reverse order–they’ve set the values. Burke didn’t say take it or leave it, but he wasn’t far off, either. Hextall set aside money for his other decisions and needs.

And that’s that.

Let’s be brutally honest. The likely result is written on the subway walls and in the sounds of silence.

It has happened in the past–a star player didn’t like the team’s offers, hit free agency, then both sides caved. Steven Stamkos is a prime example of a player who signed a massive contract with his current team despite a year of negotiating and then getting to the edge of free agency. The New York Islanders held out hope for a similar path by John Tavares before he bolted to Toronto.

Tavares strung out the process and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And that’s far more common than a player getting cold feet after hitting free agency.

Sure, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin may hit free agency and weigh the offers against the Penguins’ efforts and realize that home is where the heart is.

But most likely, they’re gone.

Perhaps I’m an impatient sort. My lack of temperance or grace for others to make a decision on their time has cost me opportunities. But it has also saved a lot of time, too. At some point, you know. You know?

If the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ron Hextall, and Brian Burke don’t know the score by now, shame on them.

It is time to draw the line. “Here’s the best. What do you think? If you don’t take this offer, we’re going to spend it elsewhere because winning and making the playoffs next season is more important to us than anything else.”

If Letang and Malkin really want more than the Penguins can faithfully offer, Hextall will need time to replace them. Every week is a lost week in that regard. RHDs Jeff Petry and Tyson Barrie are available via the NHL trade block, but swinging a deal for those players will be a little more difficult than ordering snacks off Amazon.

Ryan Strome. Vincent Trocheck.

Those names will likely be on the UFA market and could be solid second-line centers at a cost well less than Malkin made last season, BUT…here’s the unfun part: other teams will drive up the price beyond their actual value.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ trade coffers do not have the necessary treasure to trade for a second-line center of that quality. Certainly not if they trade for a right-handed defenseman.

There’s clearly a benefit to getting Malkin and Letang under contract. Letang is far and away the best right-defenseman available. Malkin is one of the best centers available, and when healthy, he’s one of the best in the league.

Maybe the Penguins can get better without Malkin. Maybe the puck bounces the other way.

But neither make the Penguins better at the wrong price.

And it’s time. Pick your best yinzer expression about getting off the pot. It’s time for the Penguins and the players to square up, make their decisions, and move forward, together or separately. It’s what’s best for both sides.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Rich FILARDI
Rich FILARDI
1 month ago

Good article Dan- my PO is that burke is a blowhard. Its very easy to come out and say this is whats on the table, take it or leave it. I do understand and agree with that stance because you have to be prudent in business deals. But what is exactly on the table is the question. Hard to support either side until all the facts are collected and known. I also think these deals are more about respect than money for these players. Also, if they sign Letang for 5 years, that is just bad business. I dont care… Read more »

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich FILARDI

Wish somehow they can bring JT Miller here but wouldn’t want Rutherford to strip our future for him Iike he did here. Maybe they can do a 3 way trade to bring him in so it doesn’t kill more of our future draft pics but involve more player movement on the team.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

Bring back Boninoboninoboninoboninobonino!

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Bonino never should’ve left that is if they could’ve kept that line together. Money talks I guess!

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Bonino bolted the minute he was offered $. Don’t want him back.

bdgr
bdgr
1 month ago
Reply to  David

there are some rumors floating…

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Bring back Phil The Thrill!

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Cole, too! Only 33. Lot left in his tank!

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Tootus
Tootus
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Sully hated Cole

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Yeah but he comes with a lot of wear and take I was reading.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

Wear and Tare…

Bryan
Bryan
1 month ago

I’m hoping they sign Letang for 3-4 years (as long as it’s not at a ridiculous salary for his age), let Malkin walk if it’s going to take 8+ million and/or more than 2-3 years to sign him, and build a package around Marino to get J.T. Miller from the Canucks

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[…] the Pittsburgh Penguins, time should be up on the Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang front. […]

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
1 month ago

Time to close the loop. Make the best offers than walk away if necessary. I could have seen Rutherford at least attempting to overcome this via trade. Hextall and Burke are too passive for me. Is there any compensation for losing them as free agents, or is that out the door since we don’t have their rights?

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

Seeing they love bringing in former Flyers players maybe they can talk Lindros out of retirement! 😂

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

I can understand their point seeing what other players make but most are a lot younger and knowing Malkin and Letang have made millions already and if they really want to keep the family together they’d sign for less. So we’ll see what’s more important to them in the near future. Seeing Malkin only play half of the last 3 seasons and Letang one hit/one bad concussion away from ending his career should be taken into consideration. Though Letang earned his salary with all the extra minutes he played. Amazing stamina for a guy his age and wear over the… Read more »

Frank
Frank
1 month ago

What are the guidelines for a team being able to open discussions with a player for which he did not last play? So can any team be talking to any free agent PRIOR to the specific opening day of free agency or is their a rule that prohibits any early discussions. If there is a rule I am sure it is regularly violated. I have seen free agents sign multi year agreements 10 minutes into the first day. I find it hard to believe an agreement can be handled that fast. As to the delay in an announcement from either… Read more »

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 month ago

Yes it is time to do your business or move on. I think Malkin is gone and I think it is time. Letang I see as a 50/50. We need to move forward and set our wheels in motion. I am predicting Marino goes to Rutherford in a big trade. I see Petterson and Doumelin going for draft picks. I am glad to see Burkie finally coming out from the shadows and Hextall is what he is. He is good and bad just like JR was.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

Bring Manson in from Colorado somehow since Hextall covets him

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

Penguins did good without Malkin when he wasn’t in the line-up. Then he came back and line changing didn’t fare well.

Hondo
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

I agree, the penguins were getting a lot of secondary scoring (especially from Evan Rodriguez) until Malkin came back. What I am even more baffled at is when the Seattle expansion draft came why did they protect Malkin. He was 35 coming off major knee surgery ? Why would Seattle take a chance on that ? We lost some good players because of this

Bart wang
Bart wang
1 month ago

Let them walk

mwil1226
mwil1226
1 month ago

Dan The Pen’s have so many roster needs to address I don’t see how they can bring both back unless they agree to team friendly deals. IMO you give them each a 3yr deal with a team option in the 3rd year of the contract. Think about this – Letang had a career year and Malkin scored a point a game after returning from his knee injury. Could either play better? My answer is no and we still ended up being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.. IMO Hextall needs to take that money and start to restructure… Read more »

Dirk Diggler
Dirk Diggler
1 month ago

Move on already, these guys best days are behind them.

David
David
1 month ago

Put the best offer on the table and if they won’t take it move on before other options also disappear. Loyalty works both ways. At $9.5 million per year, Malkin was the highest paid on the team. But over the last 13 seasons, he has played 72% of available regular season games. And now he is going to be 36. Does anyone think his best hockey is ahead of him — or even something close to his best? From a cold-blooded business perspective, 3 years tops @ $7 million tops. Even that is generous. Letang is worth a renewal of… Read more »

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago

If they sign neither Malkin nor Letang, just play the young guys, sign some low-rent free agents to fill in, play out the season, and save the money for next off season. I’ll await the attacks from other Pens fans.

Keith T.
Keith T.
1 month ago

Bingo, SPOT ON & All Aces. Clearly, this may well be what is taking place. I think it is professional to not air this in the public…… Fans will speculate and be all angry at mgmt but thructing are GM has a TEAM to structure….. not focus totally on two players. Every minute they waste on negotiating against themselves they are distracted from re-constructing a TEAM. They need to have a PLAN A, Plan B, and Plan C strategically formulated the instant UFA’s hit the market. Further, they also need to devote time to exploring trades, moving players takes a… Read more »

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

I felt all along with the initial offer to both players they were being told their services were no longer needed. Letand to Toronto a club that needs a veteran leader to get them past a game 7 in the first round. Malking maybe to the Oilers to be a third line center and second line power play center. He may surprise a lot of people as no one comes off knee construction and immedietly makes a huge impact. Alas Malkin did on the power play but not 5 on 5 think about that.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

He’s not going somewhere to play third line center.

Pete
Pete
1 month ago

3 years 6.5 or see ya!

John
John
1 month ago

Well looks like talks have picked up with Letang per David Pagnotta 93.7 the Fan …said that the money is set to be around $7-8 million per year length of contract still being negotiated. If that is the rate, GMRH will need to move 2 contract’s minimum (D/D or D/F) to sign Malkin or his replacement & replacement RFA/UFA. Also Pettersson ranked #6 Defensive D in the league & Letang #8 Offensive D per “SI”. So has Pettersson become the younger new’ish Dumoulin? GMRH needs to clear salary Zucker, Dumoulin, Peterson, Marino is +$18m. Not all will be dealt but… Read more »

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[…] Dan Kingerski writes that the time has come for Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins or tell them that they will test the free agent […]

ric jefferies
ric jefferies
1 month ago

Ghosts of the past, Letang and Malkin are yesterday. This is the time to make big changes and not hang on to hope like I did, we all did, all last season . Tired of seeing Penguins (coaches and management) playing not to lose. Both guys are 1 trick ponies-, “give me the puck and let me score” is their approach to team play.

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[…] Our man in the Burgh, Dan Kingerski says it’s time for Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to stop holding the Pittsburgh Penguins hostage. Either sign with the Penguins now […]

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[…] Hockey Now: We are at the point where Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall needs to sign Evgeni Malkin and/or Kris Letang or move on. Per Director […]

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[…] is still unclear if Kris Letang, Dumoulin’s long-time defensive partner, will return to the lineup next season. However, if […]

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[…] is still unclear if Kris Letang, Dumoulin’s long-time defensive partner, will return to the lineup next season. However, if […]

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[…] is still unclear if Kris Letang, Dumoulin’s long-time defensive partner, will return to the lineup next season. However, if […]

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