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Friday, May 21, 2010
 

Evgeni Malkin will play for the Penguins next season.

Two sources told the Tribune-Review that Malkin, the Penguins' No. 2 center and co-highest paid player, will not be traded during the offseason.

The topic of trading Malkin has become a hot-button issue on the local talk-show circuit in the days after the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the second round by the Montreal Canadiens.

Malkin and top center Sidney Crosby combined to score two goals in that series. Each player will count $8.7 million against the NHL's salary cap next season, and the Penguins are committed to $21.4 million among Crosby, Malkin and No. 3 center Jordan Staal for the next three seasons.

No other team has that much cap-space tied into three centers, but Penguins management believes this blueprint is the franchise's best bet to win the Stanley Cup in the first season at Consol Energy Center.

Malkin and Crosby finished 1-2 in playoff scoring during the Penguins' 2009 run to the Stanley Cup.

There has been debate among fans - though not internally within the Penguins - that moving one of the so-called "Big Three" centers could help address franchise needs for a scoring-line wing and high-end prospects.

The Penguins have entered the last two seasons within about $1 million of the cap, and ownership has signed off on again spending to the upper limit next season. The crop of NHL players expected to test free agency is considered strong at defense and weak at wing.

Malkin, 23, produced career lows in goals (28), points (77) and games (67) during the regular season. The previous year he paced the NHL with 113 points and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

He has served as an alternate captain the last two seasons and will enter the second season of a five-year extension. He was the second overall pick in the 2004 entry draft. The Penguins selected Crosby at first overall in 2005 and Staal at second overall in 2006.

Crosby, 22, is a finalist for the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ted Lindsay Award (best player) after finishing the regular season tied for the NHL lead with 51 goals. Staal, 21, is a first-time finalist for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward).

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