The Pittsburgh Penguins have officially locked in their core once again, signing Kris Letang to a six-year contract extension last week, and now extending another franchise cornerstone in Evgeni Malkin for another four years.
Malkin will long be considered one of the greatest players in Penguins franchise history, so it came as a shock to many when it seemed that they were prepared to let the 35-year-old hit free agency on Wednesday. It came down to the wire, but ultimately Penguins general manager Ron Hextall was able to get the contract signed before it opened at 12 pm ET on July 13. The contract extension will last four years with an average annual value of $6.1M million.
There would have been many teams interested if he had hit free agency, but the Penguins made sure that they maintained the services of one of the best players in their franchise’s history. Malkin is third all-time in points, goals, and assists and was an integral part of their three Stanley Cup championships in 2009, 2016 and 2017. He has also scored an incredible 1,146 points in 981 career games including 42 points in 41 games last season as he worked his way back into the NHL following a lengthy recovery from knee surgery.
Fit With Penguins’ Future
With both the Letang extension and this one for Malkin, the Penguins are signalling that they don’t believe their core of Malkin, Letang, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel are done competing for the Stanley Cup. They also recently announced a six-year extension for winger Rickard Rakell, a player that Hextall acquired at the 2022 Trade Deadline. He was brought into the fold as a goal scorer who could finish a ton of great chances that Malkin’s excellent playmaking would offer.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker
Some people questioned why Rakell was re-signed, but the player that he was brought in to complement was about to become a free agent. However, Hextall made sure that he retained all of his best players. Malkin’s skating is not what it once was and he has certainly lost a step or two when it comes to speed, but his size, hockey IQ, and playmaking are so advanced that he will remain an offensive threat as long as he decides to lace up his skates.
If he can remain healthy over these next four years, Malkin will likely score an average of 60-70 points per season, which is solid value for a $6.1 million average annual value contract, especially considering the leadership and team culture that he provides.
Penguins Extend Franchise Legend
Malkin is without a doubt one of the greatest Penguins players of all time and it would have felt very strange seeing him put on any other jersey next season. With this move, they have locked themselves into one game plan for at least the next four years. That game plan being, win at all costs with their aging core. If players like Letang and Malkin are able to stave off regression and maintain their dominance into their late 30s, then they could have a very real chance at contending in the next few years. However, that “if” will continue to become more tenuous as time goes on.
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.