It is hard to think about the Pittsburgh Penguins without Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin coming to mind. They have played together with captain Sidney Crosby for the past 16 years, and are among the most elite players in the National Hockey League. However, that could all be coming to an end this summer if the Penguins are unable to reach contract agreements with both sides before they become free agents in July. Can the team work out favorable terms for two of their best players, and if not, is there anyone who could realistically fill their shoes?
Malkin was drafted second overall in the 2004 NHL draft, and it is safe to say the Penguins got that pick right. He has been a constant on the second line and helped bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh in 2009, 2016 and 2017. He has expressed a desire to finish out his career with the Penguins, and all fans can do now is wait and hope that he gets his wish.
At 35 years old, Malkin is in the latter part of his hockey career, so it’s likely both sides have already agreed to a 3 – 4 year term. The financial piece of the contract puzzle is probably where negotiations have stalled. His camp could be asking for more than the Penguins are willing to give due to his injury history. It is likely that in order to reach a deal both sides are going to have to bend.
However, if the Penguins are looking to contend for the Stanley Cup next season can they really afford not to bring Malkin back? The answer is a simple no. The fact is there is no other player who is currently on the free-agent market who can do what Malkin does. His average ice time per game this season was 18:20 and 3:46 on the power play.