Tim Benz: Evgeni Malkin played hard on the contract front; It is clear that the penguins are ready for this too



If you were under the impression that Evgeni Malkin’s contract negotiations with the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to end just as well as Kris Letang’s, we’re sorry to disappoint you.

Apparently this idea of ​​keeping the band together won’t happen without getting upset.

Malkin has played hard with the Penguins, and general manager Ron Hextall seems poised to do the same.

Hextall proved that by retaining winger Rickard Rakell on a $30million six-year contract Monday night and pushing the cap so hard Malkin may not have the space to come back even if he wants to.

This is no longer about Malkin wanting to continue playing “with his brothers” Letang and Sidney Crosby. It’s no longer that Malkin just needs a little love to play in Pittsburgh because he’s “already a rich guy.”

This is about money. This is about the term. This is raw money in business versus the perceived amount Malkin can get in the open market. Not to mention the ego and perception that comes with the annual average and total money guaranteed.

This is about terse phone calls between agents and management, not tearful text messages between teammates who are deep in their feelings.

That Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravailli said The Penguins have offered Malkin a four-year deal. He believes the team’s goal is to sign Malkin for about $6.1 million a year, just like Letang’s AAV.

That should be enough for Malkin.

If not, the penguins must be prepared to let him go. Letang took less than he could have gotten on the open market that year, as did Bryan Rust. Just like Crosby in the past.

Malkin needs to know that he can’t grab every possible penny, return to Pittsburgh and expect the team to have virtually every extra cash to really improve.


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Look at the math. Malkin and Letang totaled $16.75 million against the cap last year. At $6.1 million apiece this year, that’s $12.2 million. Rust is making $1.6 million more than last year, and Casey DeSmith will be making half a million more.

That means these four guys will be tallying about $14.3 million. So that’s just $2.45 million in savings compared to what Malkin and Letang counted toward the cap last year. The theoretical goal was that the franchise could actually keep these two for less money and spend a little freehand to improve a team that’s rebounded in the first round of the playoffs each of the last four seasons.

But even that $2.45 million is gone now, too, because that’s almost exactly the difference between Rakell’s adjusted cap last year and the $5 million he’ll make this year thanks to his new contract.

The Penguins now have $10,308,158 in salary caps with 10 forwards, seven defenders and two goalies under contract, according to Cap Friendly.

If Malkin, at the age of 35, with two knee surgeries under his belt and showing signs of decay, thinks he can get more than what Hextall has offered, he should try the free hand. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Malkin plans to do just that.

As Dreger points out, Malkin has every right to do so, and no one should blame him for trying the open market for the first time. Accordingly, reports from The Athletic suggest Malkin may not have landed that fourth-year offer at all.

Anyway, let’s turn off the water when Malkin leaves. Let’s eliminate sentimentality as part of the equation when it comes to the importance of “keeping the core together”. Let’s stop pretending that Malkin, who stays with Letang and Crosby, is as important to him as he is to the other two — or the legion of fans on Twitter who pretend life is like them know, stop if Malkin ever skates in another team’s jersey.

Honestly, maybe Hextall and the rest of the front office are too wrapped up in all of this to even let the negotiations get that far. When I’m hextall I give Malkin up to the last minute to sign before free agency hits, then I go out there and get the best possible free agent or trade piece to get Malkin as second line center ASAP to replace.

Then I leave as little cash as possible on the table and see exactly how important it is then for Malkin to play with his brothers. After signing Rakell on Monday, that won’t be much.

This hardball thing can definitely go two ways.

Tim Benz is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise noted.

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