Penguins President Brian Burke is not closing the window to re-sign Evgeni Malkin



Evgeni Malkin has decided to test the waters of free agency once the NHL’s contract period begins Wednesday.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t go back to the penguins.

At least that’s what Brian Burke, the team’s president of hockey operations, thinks.

Speaking to the Tribune-Review by phone Tuesday morning, Burke discussed Malkin’s future, the status of contract talks between the two parties and a few other items on the eve of free agency.

• Burke confirmed various reports Monday that Malkin has opted to become a full free agent for the first time in his unparalleled 16-year career. But that doesn’t mean Malkin won’t re-sign with the team.

“The window is still open. But the timing is a problem,” Burke said. “Once free agency opens, we need to commit to what we need to do to improve our hockey club. So the timing can’t work. But certainly there is no reaction from our side that says: ‘Oh, we don’t want Evgeni back.’ Or: “This is terrible. What is he thinking?’ None of them. It’s more that the window opens (on Wednesday) and we have to go to the store.”

• Burke declined to go into the details of the contract negotiations between the team and Malkin’s deputy, but made one point clear about the duration of a potential deal.

“We couldn’t reach an agreement,” he said. “We made an offer with which we were satisfied. There are stories out there that we never offered a four-year deal. That’s totally wrong. But as far as mechanics and quantities go, we never talk about that.”

• After Malkin made his decision, the team re-signed to a six-year contract with a $5 million salary cap. The 29-year-old impressed management after joining the team at the close of trading in March.

“We’ve been big fans of Rickard Rakell for a long time,” Burke said. “We were able to get him, he was injured very quickly (in March). Then he came back and played good hockey for us. We think he’s a very skilled guy of above average height. Makes our forward group better. quality man. We’re pretty excited.”


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• According to Cap Friendly, the Penguins will have $10,308,158 in salary cap after signing Rakell. Burke was asked if the team would like to make more space, perhaps through trade, or if that’s a sufficient number to pursue potential free agents.

“It remains to be seen if we do something and make more space,” Burke said. “But we certainly feel like we have enough to keep shopping.”

• On Friday at the NHL Draft at Montreal’s Bell Center, general manager Ron Hextall cited forwards as the team’s greatest need this offseason. Burke didn’t go into specifics but did confirm that the team is still focused on the front ranks even after Rakell’s re-signing.

• Danton Heinen is a forward who the team will give unrestricted free reign. On Monday, the team decided not to make a qualifying offer to Heinen, who went into the offseason as a restricted free agent. By any measure, Heinen offered a satisfying game in 2021-22 as he recorded 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 76 games.

But the restricted agency deal meant the Penguins didn’t qualify him.

“Most of these guys, when you have a case where a player has had a productive year and doesn’t qualify, it’s often because teams are nervous about their (potential) arbitration,” Burke said. “And that’s the case here. We were very happy with Danton. He’s a great kid. He had a good year for us. But if we do as well as he does, that puts us in an arbitration position that is untenable.”

Heinen would have been eligible for salary arbitration in August.

• Forward Kasperi Kapanen received an offer to qualify as a restricted free agent despite two largely disappointing seasons with the team. Last season, Kapanen, the 2014 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), played in 79 games and recorded 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists).

Burke hasn’t glossed over the team’s assessment of what Kapanen has offered so far during his tenure with the Penguins. At the same time, he was optimistic about what the experienced striker still has to offer.

“I wouldn’t say maybe his game isn’t up to his standard. I think it is clear that this is not the case. His game was way below what we expected and hoped for,” Burke said. “Other than that, he’s a really good person. We think he can hit back. And he’ll get back on his feet.”

• Throughout his managerial career, Burke has never shied away from a penchant for tall, physical defenders who can offer a variety of skills. During his various stints in the NHL, he drafted for players such as Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf.

Suffice to say he was pleased when the Penguins selected defenseman Owen Pickering (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) in the first round (No. 21 overall) of last week’s draft.

“He’s been around him just a little bit the last few days, his skating lives up to his bill,” Burke said. “He’s an excellent skater for a big man. He’s a quality kid. He’s already very popular. Very bright. And you can’t teach 6ft 4.25″.

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Seth Rorabaugh is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Seth via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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