There was a moment last week when it looked like Evgeni Malkin’s time with the Pittsburgh Penguins was coming to a close.
But an 11th-hour agreement avoided a potential split, with Malkin re-upping with the Pens on a four-year, $24.4 million deal that will keep him in Pittsburgh the rest of his career. However, that had come after a report from ESPN that the talks had reached an impasse and that Malkin was going to market when free agency opened.
So, when Malkin decided to stay, there was a bit of confusion. And while Penguins general manager Ron Hextall during an appearance on “The Fan Morning Show” did not deny Malkin’s willingness to go to market, he did reject the notion that things were tumultuous.
“It was certainly not tumultuous. That negotiation was a difficult negotiation,” Hextall said. “Geno’s representatives were good, very professional. These guys, they get to a point where they’ve the right to unrestricted free agency, so if they choose to go there that is a right that they’ve earned. But in saying that, we’re certainly happy Geno made the decision to come back and finish his career with the Penguins.”
Now, there’s legitimate criticism to be had about how much Hextall and Co. extended themselves in order to keep Malkin a career Penguin along with Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. Malkin has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, appearing in just 41 games last regular season and 33 prior to that. He’ll be 36 at the end of the month and has played over 70 games just once in his last 10 seasons. Tying up roughly $6 million in cap space a year for his age 36-39 seasons could come back to bite them.
He’s still a point-per-game player though, and those types of centers are tough to come by. Ultimately, the right decision, if risky, might have been made by team and player, even if things had gotten contentious.