Evgeni Malkin in a different uniform? That still seems unlikely, given how much he has lobbied publicly to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins for his entire career but Josh Yohe of The Athletic writes that there is growing pessimism about Malkin’s return.
The 35-year-old center is a franchise icon, and future Hall of Famer, and has indicated that he would take a discount to stay with Sidney Crosby and fellow free agent Kris Letang for another few years. Whether that discount is palatable to general manager Ron Hextall appears to be a different story, however. Yohe writes that “numerous agents” actually believe it is unlikely that Malkin returns to Pittsburgh next season.
It would be a shock to see the 2012 Hart Trophy winner in a different sweater, though even with his best years behind him, there would certainly be interest on the open market. Malkin still had 20 goals and 42 points in 41 games this season, producing well whenever he was healthy enough to take the ice. That health is a concern, as it’s been more than a decade since he played every game in a season, but it is not every day that you find a two-time Art Ross winner available in free agency.
With just over two weeks before the start of free agency, the clock is ticking on Malkin and the Penguins. The team has several other important UFAs to try and keep–including Letang and Rickard Rakell, whose situations are also examined in Yohe’s piece–along with arbitration-eligible RFAs in Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen.
All that with a new ownership group that is not ready to take a step backward and wants to contend for the Stanley Cup next season. If there is a team worth watching over the next 16 days, it’s Pittsburgh.