Tribune Review reporter Rob Rossi jokes around with Evgeni Malkin on Friday, then spends his Saturday pointing out the Penguins should trade him. As usual, the joke's on him, because Makin foretold it (emphasis added).
[Evgeni Malkin told] me that he was using a new stick during the playoffs and that I should keep it a secret.
I caught Malkin on Friday before his meeting with Bylsma, and this exchange occurred:
RR [Rob Rossi]: Geno, I’ve got to ask…
EM [Evgeni Malkin]: My stick. Did you keep it a secret?
RR: Was that true? I thought you were joking.
EM: (Smiling) Maybe. You never know.
RR: Well, if you get a new stick next season will you tell me – like, for real?
EM: Maybe I won’t be here.
RR: Oh, God; not you, too.
EM: Trade me. That is what everybody says. You will say it.
RR: Yep, trade you for some sticks.
EM: (Smiling) New ones.
"You will say it". Nailed it, Geno...
Then the column that ran Sunday:
The Penguins won't trade Crosby, who aside from being team captain is the franchise's face. Malkin, already a scoring champion and playoff MVP at 23, is the guy to shop.
Shero should start making calls to his contemporaries, and his first words should be: "Make me an offer for Malkin." It must include a top-line wing, a top-pairing defenseman, two roster players and either two top prospects or two first-round picks.
It's funny how just one year ago all the talk was "Strength down the middle" and how much of an unmatched advantage Pittsburgh had there, and how they were so lucky to have Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal. Throw in an underwhelming year for Malkin -- just one year after the soon to be 24 year old won the Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy, by the way -- and people are tripping over themselves to get this guy out of town.
Are you all out your damn minds?
Elliotte Friedman makes a lot more of a level-headed argument and approach to how the Pens should pick up the pieces and move forward.
The problem is that number 71 goes through long stretches of disinterest. He's not an every night player like Crosby. Considering he's eating up 15 per cent of the team's cap space, that's got to stop and the point needs to be made forcefully. Basically, the organization must tell him that, if he has another year like this one, it may have no choice but to move him.
One GM I really respect told me that if you're going to sign a guy to a long-term, big-money, cap-eating deal, he must be three things: a critical part of your team, a guy who can stay healthy, and someone who can motivate himself to bring it every night. Malkin is not number three. And, that jeopardizes number one.
The Penguins should make that known. If that doesn't change things, it's his own fault if Pittsburgh makes a drastic move.
Malkin, by the way, did score 77 points in 67 games, several of which he played injured with a hurt shoulder. He was undisciplined in taking 100 penalty minutes, was a defensive nightmare according to the metrics and he only had one point (an assist) in the last four games of the season. By any stretch of the imagination it was a disappointing, frustrating and plainly bad season for him.
How much can you blame it on the injury and any additional bumps and bruises along the way? Who knows. Malkin's able enough to play for Russia in the World Championships, so that's probably not a huge factor or excuse. How much can you put on Malkin being a helicopter all year? (Because he has no wings, get it?) For most of the season Ruslan Fedotenko, Max Talbot and Alexei Ponikarovsky played on Malkin's line. Great players make those around them better, but you can't make chicken salad out of chicken.....Well, you know.
So how can the Pens keep Malkin -- arguably the top offensive player in the world when he's "on" his game, and also be able to afford to give him the proper support? Is it feasible? Hash it out in the comments, the best ideas and thoughts get debated on Monday.