Penguins, Malkin hope to get long-term contract done soon
Keeping Evgeni Malkin is the Penguins' top priority this summer.
General manager Ray Shero will move quickly.
Negotiations between Shero and Malkin's agent, J.P. Barry, will begin this week — and both parties are interested in working on a deal in short order.
Malkin is set to enter the final year of his current contract. He can sign an extension July 5, but after that date control of the situation favors Malkin's representatives.
His current contract, which pays him $8.7 million annually, contains a clause that gives Malkin full control over any movement. It is a clause similar to the one that allowed winger Jarome Iginla to block a trade to Boston this past season.
Malkin's no-movement clause kicks in only for the final year of his deal.
Malkin reiterated Sunday that he wants to sign a long-term contract only with the Penguins. He also wants to leave the club with salary-cap space to maintain a Stanley Cup-contending roster.
Under the new labor contract between the NHL and players' association, Malkin's next contract with the Penguins could max out at $102.88 million over eight years.
However, the new labor deal does not allow cap-friendly, front-loaded deals such as the extension signed by captain Sidney Crosby last summer.
Crosby, who signed for 12 years at $104.4 million, will count only $8.7 million against the cap even though his annual salary over the first nine years is $10.6 million.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin — the only player other than Malkin in this era to have at one time supplanted Crosby as the acknowledged “best in the world” — costs the most annually against the cap at $9.58 million.
Penguins ownership has authorized Shero to spend what is necessary to keep Malkin, who at 26 already has won two scoring titles and MVPs in the regular season and playoffs.
Shero informed Crosby last summer that Malkin likely would end up with the highest salary-cap number on the Penguins because of labor contract limitations.
Crosby said during the NHL lockout that he has no issue with Malkin making more than him — either against the cap or overall, though the latter is not possible.
Keeping Crosby and Malkin together for the bulk of their careers is a top directive from majority co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. That directive could make it difficult for Shero to keep defenseman Kris Letang.
Like Malkin, Letang will enter the final season of his current contract, a four-year deal worth $14 million.
And like Malkin, Letang — a first-time finalist for the Norris Trophy (top defenseman) — will command a significant raise.
Unlike Malkin, Letang does not have a no-movement clause on his current deal, and the Penguins could trade him if a deal is not reached. They did that at the NHL Entry Draft last summer with center Jordan Staal, who rejected a 10-year deal worth about $57.5 million.
Shero has yet to open negotiations with Letang's agent, Kent Hughes. Those talks should begin this month.
Shero has said he hopes to keep Letang and Malkin.
Letang, 26, seeks at least a five-year contract with a full no-trade clause, though he prefers an eight-year term. He also wants a full no-movement clause. Compensation is trickier because Letang is the first in-his-prime defenseman set to hit the open market under the new labor deal.
The Penguins believe Letang will want at least $7 million annually and closer to or above $8 million.
The Penguins also believe they can keep winger Pascal Dupuis from testing the free-agent market. Shero will start negotiating with Dupuis' agent, Allan Walsh, next week.
Dupuis wants a four-year deal. He is 34, and Shero has rarely offered a contract of more than two years to a player — his own or a free agent — in his mid-30s.
Dupuis, however, is viewed by management as a unique circumstance. He has missed only two games the past four seasons, and during that span Dupuis has scored 80 goals — only two on the power play.
Dupuis is among the top players set to become unrestricted free agents, and he likely will command at least $4 million on the open market.
Dupuis is unlikely to provide much of a hometown discount because he took only a $100,000 annual raise on his last deal. Still, the Penguins believe they can keep him for a little less than $4 million annually, though they prefer a three-year term.
Dupuis is the clear top priority for Shero regarding the five forwards set to become unrestricted free agents. The others are wingers Iginla, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams and Brenden Morrow.