Evgeni Malkin Will Not Be Traded: Assessing the Media-Driven Trade Frenzy


Evgeni Malkin will remain with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not exactly the most newsworthy tidbit? It certainly shouldn’t be, but following the Penguins’ unsuccessful first-round series against the New York Rangers – in which they were dropped four games to one – questions have again risen about the possibility of trading Malkin.

Such questions, however, have simply been driven by the media with little basis in reality, as the possibility of Malkin getting moved any time soon is slim to none.

Sure, it’s impossible to definitively say that Malkin will remain in Pittsburgh for life. Cue the choruses of “If Gretzky can get traded, anyone can”, etc. etc.

But the situation isn’t quite as cut and dry.

For one, the 8 year/$76 million contract Malkin signed includes a full no-movement clause, meaning the Russian centreman isn’t going anywhere unless he chooses to. He’s already indicated numerous times that his wish is to retire in Pittsburgh alongside Sidney Crosby, so the book on Malkin’s trade possibility should end right there.

Yet, there remain many who feel Pittsburgh’s management team should push for a trade regardless.

Setting aside the fact that Pens General Manager Jim Rutherford recently said that he has absolutely zero interest in trading Malkin, let’s take a closer look at what such a trade situation might entail.

The general consensus of those advocating for a Malkin trade is that recent years have proven the Pens cannot win with the Crosby/Malkin duo.

Again, the issue is not quite as black and white.

Firstly, they did win. Crosby and Malkin did not only lead Pittsburgh to a championship in 2009, but Malkin emerged as the playoff run’s MVP, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. While time has passed since the championship run, and the team has missed the opportunity to win again, the duo’s 2009 Stanley Cup cannot simply be ignored in the argument regarding their ability to lead this team.

Secondly, the problems that have barred the Penguins from winning since ’09 have not centred around Crosby or Malkin. The two have remained at an elite level since that run – winning Art Ross Trophies, Hart Trophies, a Rocket Richard Trophy, international medals, etc. etc.

It’s hard to imagine what more could be asked of the duo, besides the obvious – more championships.

A few years of lacklustre postseason play from Marc-Andre Fleury certainly didn’t help them out, nor did the team’s lack of secondary scoring, or a subpar defensive system.

The argument could be made that the Pens are simply handicapped by Crosby’s and Malkin’s monster contracts, but is that truly the case?

Chicago certainly pays a pretty penny for their star players, and while Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each make around $2 million less than Crosby and Malkin, it isn’t that extra $4 million that allows the Blackhawks to remain an elite NHL club. Rather, it’s the astute management of their organization. They’ve cultivated excellent prospects (Brandon Saad being chief among these) and have a host of excellent veteran players positioned throughout their lineup (Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, etc.).

The solution to Pittsburgh’s problems, then, would seem to be a more intelligent approach to building the rest of the Pens’ roster, rather than removing one of the two players that has kept them among the elite thus far.

Many of these problems were actually solved last summer, in fact.

The top-six was bolstered with two more elite wingers in Patric Hornqvist and David Perron. The club got more physical and more able to defend their stars. Fleury shored up the cage and emerged as the Pens’ best player throughout the postseason.

If not for an almost absurd amount of injuries – which decimated the Pens’ defensive corps and limited the team’s top scorers (including Malkin) – Pittsburgh may be suiting up for the second round right now.

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Regardless of postseason success, trading Malkin simply does not make sense as a coherent option moving forward.

The best case scenario would be the Pens netting an absolutely dynamite package of players, prospects, and picks for Malkin.

So the secondary scoring gets upgraded, but the primary scoring gets severely downgraded, as the Pens surely don’t get a player of Malkin’s calibre in the returning package.

The future surely gets set up for success with some elite prospects and picks, but the book is effectively closed on winning now as Crosby continues his prime years, as time is needed to allow the youth movement to flourish.

Above all, a move would indicate that management is giving up on a player that has already emerged as a future Hall of Famer – one who has not only done everything asked of him during his tenure with the Penguins, but who has proven he can bring championships to Pittsburgh.

It would be the exact type of knee-jerk reaction that elite organizations simply do not make.

Trading Evgeni Malkin simply is not the answer.

If the Penguins want to find further success, they must build up the rest of their roster, improve their coaching staff, and hope for significantly more luck on the injury front.

In other words, targeting the weak aspects of their roster, and not the few that are consistently performing at a high level, would seem to be the most logical option.

The frenzy surrounding a Malkin trade is nothing more than a media-driven game of hypotheticals. In trading a player of Malkin’s calibre comes the prospect of a league-wide shift in power. The Penguins would be significantly weakened, while another team would be immediately raised into the limelight.

While it may be an exciting possibility for some, the fact remains that Malkin, the Pens ownership group, and GM Jim Rutherford all agree that Geno isn’t going anywhere.

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