Evgeni Malkin was one step away from leaving Pittsburgh, but still remains in the American team for another four years. Sport understands why the negotiations between the club and the striker were so difficult, but ended in a mutual victory.
Over 500 goals (including playoffs) and 1146 points in the regular season, three Stanley Cups and half a dozen individual awards, including the most prestigious Conn Smythe Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy, several records and a place in the top three in almost all important indicators. Was all this not enough for Evgeni Malkin and Pittsburgh to agree on a new contract and the Russian striker spent his overseas career in the same club?
For several weeks it seemed not. Eugene’s camp considered the Penguins’ proposals humiliating for a player of this class, and the club, in turn, did not do everything possible for a long time to keep one of the best hockey players in history. As early as Tuesday, North American media reported that Malkin’s long-term romance with Pittsburgh, which had lasted since 2006, had come to an end and the striker would leave the team.
One can understand the indignation and frustration of Evgeny, who did not hide his desire to remain in the team. Just look at how much he has done for Pittsburgh and how many times in recent years the club has said that it would be great to keep Malkin for the next seasons. And the attacker’s statistics, despite the injuries, remained at a high level – more than a point per game and a good playoff, in which Pittsburgh lost not at all because of Gino. The example of Alexander Ovechkin, who is older than Yevgeny, is still quite fresh, but he received the contract he wanted from Washington last year. Malkin, unlike Ovi, was willing to make concessions and asked Pittsburgh for less than he had previously received, emphasizing the duration of the agreement.
The Penguins were confused by the state of Malkin’s health and the length of the contract he wanted to receive. He missed too many matches in recent years due to various injuries, and with age, the sores only got worse. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lineup as deep as Tampa, which can afford to play without Nikita Kucherov and then win the playoffs. They need every unit just to get into the cup eight, and when Malkin is not in the squad, the team suffers. The NHL has a hard salary cap and finding an equivalent replacement for an injured player of this level is simply unrealistic.
The club were immediately ready to keep him for two years, and then re-sign him again if everything was in order, but Gino wanted guarantees and peace of mind for the rest of his playing career. He understood that he could easily find a better offer from a financial point of view on the side, but he was ready to take less, just to stay in his now native Pittsburgh. He would have been gladly taken on by a Stanley Cup team, and Malkin would have made absolutely any top club in the league the main favorite, but Evgeny already has three cup rings, and he was ready to go through a difficult period for the “penguins” together.
The parties agreed a few hours before the opening of the free agent market. Malkin went on a significant salary cut – from 9.5 million a year to 6.1, but still got what he wanted. The striker has signed a four-year, $24.4 million contract that includes a no-trade clause, meaning his dream of spending his entire career at one NHL club is almost certain to come true. “Pittsburgh”, in turn, also did not lose. Yes, a long-term agreement with a 35-year-old player is a certain risk, but if Malkin rewards the team with at least a couple of great seasons, this deal will fully pay for itself. And Gino is capable of anything. He has proven this time and time again.
By the way, Malkin’s new contract does not at all deprive him of another dream – to spend a season or two in Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In four years he will be 39 years old. As the examples of Pavel Datsyuk, Sergey Fedorov and Danis Zaripov show, this is not age for hockey.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editors.