Penguins News & Rumors: Burke Talks Malkin, Free-Agent Targets & More

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where nothing is off the table, and the possibilities are endless. For our latest episode, we dive into the Evgeni Malkin contract negotiations, showcase a few free-agent targets and dive into what management would love to do in short order.

Penguins President Shoots Down Malkin Offer Reports

If you know The Athletic’s Rob Rossi, you know the respected journalist is someone who always has the back of the Penguins players. He’s been constantly in contact with Malkin throughout this process, and as per usual, has done a fine job reporting his information back to the public. Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke has recently shut down some of Rossi’s reporting, as there’s been quite the disconnect on if and when a four-year contract extension was offered. The conflicting reports have put another wrinkle into the negotiations.

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

My take is the offer was a four-year deal, however, for roughly $4.5-5 million per season, a number Malkin wants no part of. He’s still a point-a-game player and his resume speaks for itself. While there are injury concerns, many veteran forwards who have played almost 1000 NHL games.

Related: Penguins Management Set Clear Objective For Next Trade

The Penguins players want him back, head coach Mike Sullivan wants him back and for management to prioritize other contract extensions throughout the past few months has been a dropped ball. Let’s hope for Penguins fans and their team, management can get flexible and make it work under the salary cap.

Rossi reported Sidney Crosby even flew to Florida to hang out with Malkin and talk over exactly what’s going on. You figure if Crosby was to get involved, something he’d likely never do, he’d be able to talk management into giving Malkin either more money or longer term. From all accounts, it sounds like the Penguins are low-balling the legendary forward when it comes to annual salary, and are willing to meet his expectations for term. Would a four-year deal worth $6.5 million per season meet Malkin’s expectations? I’d have to think it would be close but for now, it doesn’t sound like management has come even close.

Penguins Management Staying Busy, Looking to Cut Costs

Something I touched on earlier this week was how Penguins management is looking to make a trade and haven’t found any suitors just yet. Penguins general manager Ron Hextall mentioned to The Athletic’s Josh Yohe that is was fair to say the team would like to shed some salary.

Ron Hextall Pittsburgh Penguins
Ron Hextall, GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Evan Schall/NHLI via Getty Images)

With a potential Malkin departure, the team has tried to move one of their more expensive players. I mentioned Jason Zucker or Marcus Pettersson as potential options and while there were some rumblings of interest from other teams, as we’ve seen, no deal has materialized. Hockey insider Frank Seravalli has Zucker on his list of buy out candidates, but to this point on Tuesday, there’s been no traction on this before the 5pm deadline.

A lot can change in 24 hours so let’s see what Hextall has up his sleeve as free agency is set to begin on July 13. The Penguins are a playoff-bound team that is a desirable destination for players to play for, so if it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with opportunity to win, it should be an easy sell for Burke and Hextall.

Penguins in the Market for Affordable Help

Pittsburgh currently has just over $10 million in cap space, with restricted free agent Kasperi Kapanen left to sign and a potentially giant hole at second-line center. If Malkin does indeed walk, and the two sides can’t reach an agreement before another team swoops in, look for Hextall and Burke to have interest in a few free-agent forwards.

Vincent Trocheck Carolina Hurricanes
Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Center Vincent Trocheck, a Pittsburgh native who plays the game hard and has underrated offensive abilities is someone who has quickly become a prime target. Meanwhile there’s also Andreas Athanasiou of the Los Angeles Kings who could bring some speed and skill to the roster, along with tough guy Nicolas Deslauriers, someone the Penguins reportedly had interest in last season.

Without diving into much detail, names like Brendan Lemieux, Ryan Dzingel, Nick Cousins, Sonny Milano, and Ryan Strome are some you may hear over the next few days as players who are linked to Pittsburgh.

Is this truly the end for Malkin as a Penguin? It’s starting to feel that way as things edge towards getting ugly. There’s a number of teams who are going to be lining up with lucrative offers, and if Hextall doesn’t budge on the annual salary, it sounds like ‘Geno’ is feel appreciated from another team.

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