This time the Pens’ own general manager stoked the flames saying last week:
Rutherford spoke at length to The Athletic on Thursday about his mindset entering what could be a tumultuous summer when, for the first time, it appears he will consider making a major splash in terms of potentially breaking up his team’s galaxy of stars.
The general manager was asked specifically if Evgeni Malkin, 32, is part of the team’s long-term plans.
“I’m not at the point where I’m making any decision on that at this point,” he explained. “I just can’t answer that kind of question right now.”
“There are a lot of things to sort through right now,” he said.
This of course has fanned into a lot of what the Pens “would” and “could” and “might try” to do involving their star Russian center among the Pittsburgh and national hockey media.
Malkin, now with Team Russia as they prepare for the World Champions tournament, has addressed some of these issues:
Malkin acknowledged his season was a failure— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) May 1, 2019
Malkin has reason not to be nervous, his contract contains a full no movement clause, so the Penguins can not trade or waive him unless he agrees to it.
It’s also been written just about anywhere credible that broaches the subject that team owner Mario Lemieux is also unwilling to sign off on any trade in the first place, which obviously would stop any dreams the general manager may have in its tracks.
Stack it together, and despite rumors and whispers about what “could” happen, it’s surely very likely that Malkin is back as a Penguin for 2019-20.
The only way for the situation to escalate would be if Malkin was bothered by what his GM said and wanted out as a result. Granted the above is just one (translated) quote, but it shows Geno taking ownership for a bad season and more interested in proving himself, and not necessarily a change of address right now as his priority.
That sort of positive attitude to carry forward for right now has to be a great development — all things considered. The player isn’t glossing over a poor performance or holding any illusions that he played up to a great level. He knows he can be betterc and obviously wants to do it, and he addresses that criticism is nothing new and even justified without saying that a trade is possible or (worse) that he would hope it likely.
Since trading Malkin would definitely mean a lesser team for the Penguins in the short-term, having him motivated and focused on playing better in 2019-20, in Pittsburgh is a best case scenario at this point after all the fractious quotes and uncertainty coming from the GM’s office as of late.
Rutherford has made no shortage of comments, so the next (and hopefully final) piece of information might be the GM being a little more committed to his other star center once the emotions of losing in the first round dissipate a little further.
But, fret not, if the Malkin rumors get resolution in a nice tidy way, there’s always still a summer full of Kris Letang and Phil Kessel speculation to hold us over as the Penguins search for changes before next season.