A few NHL teams have some heavy tasks to complete over the summer, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have among the heaviest. Two of the team's core players for so many years- Evgeni Malkin and Kris LeTang, will become free agents on July 1st, and Pittsburgh needs to decide if it wants to try and win with the aging core of Malkin, LeTang, and Sidney Crosby, or if it's time to move on. Asked about this prospect on Tuesday, Malkin said he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but he's prepared for whatever happens.
"I love this city and I love these fans so much," said Malkin. "If this team wants new blood and young guys and they say to me to move on, we will see... I believe in my agent and I trust him. I want to stay here. I want to play in the NHL... I hope I stay here. I hope I retire here."
"I believe I'm still a good player. I believe good players sign good contracts. Agent knows my price. We will see what is going on, I hope we will sign a good deal," Malkin said. "I want to play 3-4 years. Money is not a big deal, but I have a family, parents. I want a good future for them."
"I'm ready to go awayIf I stay, I'll be much happier."
Malkin is finishing up a contract that had him set at an annual cap hit of $9.5 million per season since 2015-15. At 35 years of age, it's likely the Penguins want him to take a discount, but just how much he's willing to bend remains to be seen. As is the way when most big name Russian free agents become available, there is plenty of talk about Malkin possibly returning home to play in the KHL. He made it clear Tuesday that he's not really interested in that at all.
""I read today, it's a Russian newspaper, they say my hometown offered (a contract) to me. it's not true. I want to stay here, I want to play in the NHL," Malkin said. "Lots of news around right now, but I hope I stay here. I hope I retire here."
If he were to go back home to play, Malkin's hometown team Metallurg Magnitogorsk owns his KHL rights. The team's Chair has stated he's had no contact with Malkin, but added Malkin just needs to say the word and Metallurg would find the money needed to get him on the team.
As for the possibility that this was his last season playing with Crosby and LeTang, Malkin said that's something that's really tough to swallow.
"It's like my two brothers, one Canadian and one French-Canadian. I love them both. It's not just hockey, it's life. We've spent so much time together, we know each other pretty well. Sid is an amazing guy. He's my favorite player, favorite guy."