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Evgeni Malkin, Penguins agree on 8-year, $76 million deal
Malkin was about to enter the final year of a contract that paid him about $8.7 million annually. Getting a new deal in place before he went home to Russia for the summer was important. He didn’t want to enter training camp in September answering questions about his future.
“I like the city, is good for hockey,” Malkin said. “I like fans. I have house here and all my friends here. It’s good for me.”
And good for the Penguins. General manager Ray Shero praised Malkin for being adamant about his desire to stay in Pittsburgh rather than hit the open market in a year, when he could command an even higher salary and go to a team where he’s not the 1b to Crosby’s 1a.
“He made it very clear that this is where he wanted to play,” Shero said.
The spotlight in a bigger market has never been something Malkin craves. One of his fondest memories is skating off the ice after his first game in Pittsburgh to a standing ovation.
He has become a folk hero of sorts, his improving but still somewhat stilted English makes up in earnestness what it lacks in eloquence. His parents have become fixtures in the stands during the annual playoff runs. When he told them he was staying rather than playing elsewhere in the NHL or entertaining a return to Russia — where he played during the lockout — they were fully on board.
The agreement allows Shero to examine the next item on his offseason “to do” list: negotiating a possible extension with defenseman Kris Letang, who is also entering the final year of his current deal.
The 26-year-old was a finalist for the Norris Trophy this year but played miserably against the Bruins. Still, he remains one of the top men at his position in the game and will likely ask for a significant bump over his $3.5 million salary.
“We’ll certainly turn our attention to Kris here over the next little bit and see if we’re in the same ballpark,” Shero said. “He’s certainly a key player for us.”
One that may be too expensive for the Penguins to keep. It’s the nature of the business. Pittsburgh will find a way to manage either way. Having Crosby and Malkin through at least 2022 means the team will remain a prime destination for free agents.
“When you have two world-class players like this,” Shero said, “you do everything you can to keep them.”
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