As Evgeni Malkin prepares for the final year of his current contract in 2021-22 and tries to broker a possible extension this off-season, he now faces a potential hurdle to finding success at both. The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that Malkin has undergone surgery on his right knee and a lengthy rehab is expected. The team does not anticipate that Malkin will be available for training camp in September and will not re-evaluate Malkin’s recovery until that time, which could lead to a further absence.
Malkin suffered the knee injury all the way back in mid-March and missed the final six weeks of the regular season and the first two games of the Penguins’ first round series against the New York Islanders. To his credit, Malkin did return for the final four games of that series, playing on what was clearly a severely damaged knee. For a player that has a reputation of being more on the fragile side, it is refreshing for Penguins fans to see that their star was able to fight through the pain in an effort to keep the team’s season alive. While he nevertheless failed in that pursuit, it could be to the benefit of next season and beyond. If Pittsburgh had advanced and Malkin continued to play, the surgery would have been delayed and the injury could have worsened in the meantime, likely leading to a much longer absence next season.
Malkin’s future is still somewhat of a question mark though. Despite a recent vote of confidence from new GM Ron Hextall, Malkin will be 35 years old next season and coming off of a poor year by his standards and has played more than 70 games once in the past nine seasons. Now he has undergone major surgery and faces a long recovery period and then will attempt to get up to game speed without any training camp and possibly preseason. The Penguins could be hesitant to give him a pricey, multi-year extension this summer until they see how he responds to this medical setback. Even then, this injury could mean that Malkin’s next deal is not as long as he may have hoped. The long-time star needs to come back strong next season, both in production and durability, in order to prove he can still be a difference-maker for Pittsburgh.