How the Penguins kept Malkin
Fast starts are helpful in hockey, and the Penguins are off to one this offseason. General manager Ray Shero has already locked up coach Dan Bylsma and his staff, and agreed to a new contract with cornerstone center Evgeni Malkin.
The Tribune-Review takes an exclusive look at how the Malkin negotiations went down:
• Last fall, upon returning to Pittsburgh from playing with his Russian hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk during the NHL lockout, Malkin informed his agent, J.P. Barry, he wanted to sign a long-term deal with the Penguins. However, he did not want to negotiate until after the Stanley Cup playoffs.
• Barry was scheduled to be in Pittsburgh last weekend and take in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final with Malkin's family and Russian-based agent, Gennady Ushakov. The Penguins were swept by Boston last Friday, so Barry arrived Saturday, anyway, in hopes of getting a jump on talks with Shero.
• Barry and Shero met Monday, a session that Barry described as “productive.” Parameters of a possible deal were discussed, including a salary range (between $9.5 and $10.6 million), term (eight years) and a full no-movement clause for Malkin. Barry also met separately with Malkin, who said he would prefer to have a deal agreed upon by the time he departed Pittsburgh on Thursday.
• Barry, Ushakov and Shero met with Penguins majority co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle and CEO David Morehouse on Tuesday. The meeting lasted several hours, and Barry described Morehouse as “particularly helpful” with convincing Ushakov — Malkin's longtime confidant — that the Penguins wanted Malkin to finish his NHL career in Pittsburgh alongside captain Sidney Crosby. The term of the deal and the no-movement clause was agreed upon, but the sides remained apart financially.
• Shero met with Crosby at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday morning. He wanted Crosby to understand that Malkin, by some measure (salary cap), would qualify as the Penguins' highest-paid player. Crosby, as he had during negotiations for his own long-term contract last summer, told Shero he had no problem with that setup.
Barry met with Ushakov, Malkin and Malkin's family — parents Vladimir and Natasha, and brother Denis — to discuss where the potential deal stood Wednesday afternoon. Though still apart from the Penguins financially, Barry cancelled a flight to Chicago, where he was to attend Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, and agreed to meet again with Shero.
Barry and Shero hammered out an agreement in Shero's office late Wednesday. A signing bonus — to be paid over the final two years of the deal — closed the financial gap, bringing Malkin's total compensation to $76 million over eight years. His salary-cap hit would be $9.5 million, second highest in the NHL to Washington's Alex Ovechkin, but only $800,000 more than his current contract. Malkin had told Barry he wanted to follow Crosby's lead and leave the Penguins with cap flexibility to build a Stanley Cup contender. Shero spoke again with Lemieux, Burkle and Morehouse to bring the Penguins' highest-ranking officials up to speed.
• Barry met again with Ushakov, Malkin and his family early Thursday morning to review all aspects of the agreement. Barry then returned to Shero's office, where the deal was finalized in principle. Malkin cannot sign until July 5 because of wording in the labor contract between the NHL and Players' Association.
With papers drafted, reviewed and approved, Barry left for Chicago. Malkin met with Shero and coach Dan Bylsma. He also chatted with Crosby before leaving, as scheduled, for a vacation.