The Penguins have a question from Evgeni Malkin without an easy answer

The Penguins must hold Evgeni Malkin, they said.

He is a franchise icon. Even less than a year after ACL surgery, he still amassed one point per game. She will be even better next season when her knee is stronger.

Also, he can’t play with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. He plays with Kasperi Kapanen and an injured Jason Zucker. He also had Rickard Rakell, but only for a few games.

The power play was much better with Malkin. He has been below average all season and, thanks to the inclusion of Malkin, suddenly became one of the top 10 units. This cannot be denied. When he’s playing well, he gives the Penguins a different gear.

If, God forbid, Sidney Crosby gets hurt, you know Malkin will bring the Penguins. He always has.

Furthermore, it is still marketable. He is Geno. He is the fourth greatest player in franchise history, which is no small feat when you consider that the top three are Mario Lemieux, Crosby and Jaromir Jagr. Malkin is on Mount Rushmore of the penguins. Such icons must be treated with respect. The penguins are all about their stars and are still stinging the fact that Jagr escaped once. Not Geno. He has earned the right to retire as Penguin, they said. He is so smart and so strong that he will find a way to be productive until he is 40.

Malkin still produces in the postseason and his underlying numbers remain elite.

It is difficult to deny the above.

So, move on to the other side of the discussion.

Penguins can’t hold Evgeni Malkin, they said.

Did you know that 44 NHL players scored at least one point per game last season? It is not as difficult as it used to be. Three defenders did too. Let’s not get carried away.

Remember Malkin’s MVP season in 2011-12? Yes, that was a long time ago. That was President Barack Obama’s first term. Since then, Malkin has played 70 or more games in a season once. Sure, there were three shortened seasons in that mix. But still, in the seven seasons since played until completion, he has reached the plateau of 70 games once. He missed 185 games due to injury during that period, which is nearly two and a half seasons worth. It is not durable. And now he’s old.

It is true that his knee should be stronger the longer it is removed from the surgery. It is also true that he turns 36 on July 31st. Did you see him play last season? He seemed pretty slow and the NHL keeps getting faster. How will Malkin at this speed help the Penguins win another Cup? Do you think he would keep up with the AVS right now? Or in a year? Or in 2025?

In his first 12 seasons, Malkin was a combined plus-114. In his last four seasons, he’s a minus-32 combined. Are you noticing a trend? Plus, those nine power-play goals in 41 games were fantastic, but that was also the highest power-play-goal-per-game ratio of his career. Is he really sustainable at 36? His defensive work also continues to decline.

It’s pretty hard to deny that too, which brings us to the plight of the Penguins.

CEO Ron Hextall is in a bit of trouble. The Fenway Group wants the Penguins to win and wants them to be marketable, just as any reasonable owned group would prefer. Malkin was never the biggest box office draw of the Penguins – he’ll be Crosby until the day he hangs up his skates – but it’s a draw, he’s a Penguins legend, and he’s eternally popular with fans. In his 16 seasons in the NHL, the Penguins have never lost qualification for the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have won three championships, played in four Stanley Cup finals and five Eastern Conference finals. They were the final winners.

Of course, they also lost five consecutive playoff series. There are contradictions and counter-arguments in every direction.

As spring turns into summer, the Penguins are attempting to sign Kris Letang and Malkin. Hextall said this publicly in May, however. The GM has since spoken to representatives from Malkin and Letang.

The Penguins absolutely want Letang back. He is 35 years old and has exaggerated habits, but he has held up well physically and the attacking defenders are more important than ever. Maybe Letang and the Penguins will find an agreement and maybe not. If they don’t, it won’t be because the Penguins aren’t sure what Letang still brings to the table. It could simply be that Letang, who has shown no interest in giving the Penguins a discount for his services, has received more money elsewhere.

Malkin’s situation is slightly different. He has stated that he will take less money to stay in Pittsburgh, and he must do it. Even his biggest supporters will agree that he is no longer a $ 9.5 million a year player.

How much is is he worth? How much will it produce in the future? How many games will he play? How will his surgically repaired knee hold up? How much will it slow down? How much money are the Penguins willing to give him? And how much are you willing to accept? How long will the Penguins be willing to take it? And how many years will Malkin be willing to accept? If they don’t sign Malkin, who becomes center no. 2 of the Penguins? The answer certainly isn’t on the roster.

These are many questions. Important questions. Questions that have no simple answers.


(Philip G. Pavely / USA Today)

Malkin does not have a lifetime pass to play with the Penguins. Only Lemieux and Crosby received such rights. And this isn’t 2001, when Jagr was sold because, frankly, the Penguins couldn’t afford it anymore.

The Fenway Group just bought the Penguins for nearly $ 1 billion and the Penguins salary cap situation, while not ideal, certainly isn’t bad. They can afford Malkin.

But does Hextall really want to hold him back? Or was last month’s press conference in words?

It is a valid question. There are a lot of valid questions with Malkin these days, with no clear answers. She is a superstar who is starting to fade but still brings immense talent and legacy to the table. Let go and lose the potential of a storybook ending with a great Penguin of all time. You also lose a lot of production.

If Hextall holds it too long, of course, maybe he’s digging his own grave.

The Crosby / Malkin era was nothing short of magnificent. It lived up to the noticeable hype, and then some. This was the golden age of Penguins hockey. It was a blast.

The final chapters of books can be the most difficult to write. Now comes the hard part.

There are no easy answers here, just calculated risks that will determine the future of the franchise and one of its brightest stars.

(Top photo: Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

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