Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is one of the best players in hockey, despite an Eastern Conference Finals performance that resulted in zero points and his team being swept. To be fair to Malkin, his other teammates failed to record a point — Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla and James Neal — but his name has been the one linked to trade rumors as he is prepared to enter the final year of his deal.
It’s tough being in that position, but luckily for Malkin look like Penguins realize his value and they are prepared to begin long-term contract negotiations with their former No. 2 overall pick and his agent, J.P. Barry, this week.
Keeping Evgeni Malkin is the Penguins’ top priority this summer. General manager Ray Shero will move quickly. Negotiations between Shero and Malkin’s agent, J.P. Barry, will begin this week — and both parties are interested in working on a deal in short order. Malkin is set to enter the final year of his current contract. He can sign an extension July 5, but after that date control of the situation favors Malkin’s representatives.
His current contract, which pays him $8.7 million annually, contains a clause that gives Malkin full control over any movement. It is a clause similar to the one that allowed winger Jarome Iginla to block a trade to Boston this past season. Malkin’s no-movement clause kicks in only for the final year of his deal.
Malkin reiterated Sunday that he wants to sign a long-term contract only with the Penguins. He also wants to leave the club with salary-cap space to maintain a Stanley Cup-contending roster.
Since entering the league in 2004, one year after the Penguins made netminder Marc-Andre Fleury their top pick of the draft, Malkin has recorded 217 goals and 560 points during his 458 career regular season games.
The team was obviously disappointed with their performance in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the outrage of their horrific performance immediately led to fans and media calling for players heads or changes. It was obvious that everyone was left with a sour taste in their mouths, but you have to remove yourself from the emotion of the situation and realistically look forward.
Pittsburgh still has an incredible core of young players, and there is no reason to believe they can’t stay near the top of the league if they can keep it all together.
It all starts with getting Malkin set for a long-term deal.