Trading Evgeni Malkin is not such a ridiculous idea
May 23, 2010 8:00 AM
Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Evgeni Malkin, added to Russia's roster after the Penguins were eliminated, celebrates after scoring in the quarterfinals of the World Champion-ships in Germany this week.
By Ron Cook Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It has been 11 days since the Montreal Canadiens turned out the lights on the Penguins' season in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup playoff series. Enough time has passed for the raw emotions to diminish, for clear, rational thinking to take over. There will be no knee-jerk reactions here this morning. Not one.
It wouldn't be absurd for the Penguins to trade Evgeni Malkin.
Now that I have your attention, let me clarify that point just a bit:
Penguins general manager Ray Shero would be crazy not to listen to and consider any and all trade inquiries for Malkin. I'm not talking about giving him away. That would be stupid. There must be equal return, of course.
No, the Penguins wouldn't get the best player in the deal. But they might be able to improve their team. Maybe by getting a star winger and a top-end prospect. Or a terrific defenseman and a top-end prospect or two. A scoring winger to play with Sidney Crosby and a shutdown defenseman are the team's two biggest needs.
You know the hard truth, right? Those needs are significant enough that Shero has to think beyond just maintaining the status quo and hoping that the Penguins' early flameout this spring was an aberration after the team won the Cup in 2009 and went to the Cup final in '08.
There's no way Malkin should be an untouchable, not in the salary-cap era when it's awfully difficult to pay two players -- Malkin and Crosby -- a combined $17.4 million a year. The only untouchable on the team should be the great Crosby, the best player in the world. He's not just the face of the Penguins. He's the face of the NHL. He should and will, it says here, spend his entire career in Pittsburgh.
That's another reason the Malkin trade talk is not sheer lunacy. Crosby always will be the dominant star here. No one can say for sure that Malkin will get chapped one day because of it. But no one can say he won't, either. If I'm guessing, I say chapped because he's so competitive with Crosby. That has to be one of the reasons coach Dan Bylsma -- and Michel Therrien before him -- hasn't split the two on the power play. Which one do you send out first without hurting the other's feelings? That also has to be why the coach is careful not to give one more minutes than the other. Superstars can be so sensitive, you know.
We've already seen how Malkin's many moods can have a negative impact on his game. If he's not scoring goals, he tends to get down on himself. It was so bad earlier this season that Bylsma noted publicly, "It's happened more than one occasion when Geno is disappointed how he's playing and frustrated. It certainly does affect his energy level and posture."
Malkin will turn 24 in July and still is an immature kid in some ways. But he has been around here long enough that he should have a better grip on those mood swings, for his sake and the team's.
That doesn't mean other NHL clubs wouldn't love to have Malkin. We've been so spoiled here. Every season since 1984, the Penguins have had at least one of the top two or three players in the world. Mario Lemieux. Jaromir Jagr. Crosby. Malkin. A lot of other hockey towns never have had a star and would do just about anything to get one.
The problem is that not every team can take on Malkin's salary -- $8.7 million a year through the 2013-14 season. That salary-cap business, remember? That would limit the potential trade partners for the Penguins.
But it only takes one other team to dance, right?
If Shero can't find the right fit -- which I'm guessing will be the case -- no problem. There are much worse things than having Malkin around for another season, especially with the excitement the Penguins will generate with their move into the beautiful new Consol Energy Center in the fall.
But if, on the odd chance, Shero can find a match?
It really wouldn't be absurd to do the deal.
Not crazy at all.
. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. First Published May 23, 2010 4:00 AM