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Let's Consider - Evgeni Malkin

Stories are just starting to surface now in regards to Malkin's performance in the Finals.  Similar to how Crosby played with a broken toe/fractured foot in the first round last season, Malkin was playing through the finals with the flu.  Some would say he lost value because of it, but as far as I'm concerned it doesn't play a factor.

2007/08 Regular Season Stats

Evgeni Malkin 82 47 59 106 78

Just one look at the kid in the Finals and you knew something was wrong.  His face looked flush, his eyes glazed over and his play stifled.  Some speculated (including myself) that he was just slumping during the Cup run.  But evidence now suggests that Geno was playing through the flu.

Malkin has one year remaining on his three-year contract, but the Pens will most likely look to lock him up during the summer.  Playing it by ear till next season's end might cost them any chance of signing him in the future - especially if he comes flying out of the gate and doesn't show signs of slowing down. 

Personally, I expect word to come before the middle of July on this one.  Priorities speaking, Fleury is first on the list since he's a RFA - the only one this offseason.  If I had to organize the remaining picks, I'd say Hossa follows in second, with a close third/tie between Malone and Orpik right behind. 

The things working against this trade focus on Malkin's production this season.  More points = more salary.  While I'm sure Geno may consider the comfort level of playing amongst (and living with) guys like Gonchar, Crosby and Sykora, hopefully his agent won't look to hit the gas pedal when it comes to negotiations. 

Some are even saying that Malkin may be on the hunt for a leadership role elsewhere.  As much as I see this happening in the future, I don't see the future being anywhere within the next two to three years.  Similar to Jagr/Lemieux, Malkin is still getting comfortable in his new country, skating with some of the best players in the league and finding a sense of camaraderie with Gonchar/Talbot.  I don't expect him to take a discount, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a 3-5 year deal for a substantial amount of money per season.

Malkin will, most likely, not remain a Penguin for the remainder of his career.  I do however feel he'll be with the team for at least another three years and will then find his stock rising for more money and a leadership role elsewhere.