NHL Rumor Mill – December 30, 2021
Evgeni Malkin talks about his next contract, suggested trade blueline trade targets for the Penguins, and the latest on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
MALKIN TALKS CONTRACT, PENGUINS NEED A RIGHT-HANDED DEFENSEMAN
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel reports Penguins center Evgeni Malkin isn’t sweating his next contract and still believes his club can be a Stanley Cup contender. Currently working his way back from offseason knee surgery, the 35-year-old superstar said he likes what he’s seen of the Penguins this season and hopes he can provide them with more power upon his return.
Slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July, Malkin said the uncertainty of his contract status won’t affect his performance. “No, no, I’m not thinking about that, my contract,” he told the press yesterday. “I don’t think about money. I’m like pretty rich guy,” he said with a chuckle which drew laughter from the media. He added he’s not thinking about money, putting his focus on regaining his level of previous performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin added he hopes to continue playing for another three or four years. Whether that’ll be with the Penguins or another club remains to be determined.
He’s completing an eight-year deal worth $9.5 million per season. Cap Friendly shows the Penguins with over $33 million in projected available cap space for 2022-23 though we can add $1 million to that to account for the rise of the salary cap to $82.5 million next season. However, they only have eight players under contract for ’22-’23 with such notables as Kris Letang, Kasperi Kapanen, Jeff Carter, and Bryan Rust also due for new deals.
Malkin will have to accept a significant pay cut to finish his playing career with the Penguins. It will be interesting to see if he and management can find an acceptable level to make the dollars work.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently observed the Penguins will have to shed some salary to make room for Malkin’s return. That could result in a cost-cutting deal involving a depth forward such as Zach Aston-Reese, Danton Heinen or even Brock McGinn.
Kingerski also believes the Penguins could use another right-handed defenseman. He suggested Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Justin Braun ($1.8 million) or the Buffalo Sabres’ Colin Miller if the Sabres would agree to take some salary back in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kingerski also suggested struggling winger Jason Zucker would be the most desirable to move but that could be difficult given his declining performance and $5.5 million cap hit.
Zucker has since been listed as week-to-week with a nagging lower-body injury. If he should end up on long-term injury reserve for the rest of the season it would help the Penguins’ efforts to clear cap space for Malkin’s return.
LATEST RANGERS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Arthur Staple was asked if the New York Rangers could pursue a big fish like San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl at the trade deadline given their high placement in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Staple indicated the Rangers are among a handful of playoff clubs with sufficient salary-cap space to make additions at the trade deadline. He suggested they should go all-in this season, proposing they make inquiries about Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Brown or Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan.
Hertl’s three-team trade clause could make him difficult to acquire. Staple said he’d pass on Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel. He also noted the possibility Reilly Smith ($5.5 million, UFA in July 2022) could be available as the Vegas Golden Knights will have to shed salary when Jack Eichel returns in February.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are projected to have $28.8 million in projected salary-cap space by deadline day. General manager Chris Drury showed his willingness to make deals in the offseason by acquiring Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him shopping for a winger and/or a veteran defenseman leading up to the March 21 trade deadline.
Giroux and Brown probably won’t be available as long as their clubs remain in playoff contention. There’s also no certainty either guy will agree to waive their no-movement/no-trade clauses if asked to do so. Smith could be the best option if the Golden Knights are looking for a cost-cutting deal.