Florida Panthers: Breaking Down Both Sides of Evgeni Malkin Trade Rumor

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

With the Florida Panthers’ offseason in full swing, one major rumor has circled the Cats like sharks in the water.

The rumor contains two-time Art Ross winner, Hart Memorial winner, and three-time Stanley Cup champion center Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

First reported by the Athletic’s Josh Yohe, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford revealed that he was “unsure” of Malkin’s future with the organization (note: the article is behind a paywall).

The Penguins have started to decline as of late, failing to win a playoff game this season after being swept in the first round by the New York Islanders.

Their core has started to decline, with Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Malkin all into their early thirties. Not to mention, former franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was left exposed in the Vegas Expansion Draft.

Like the other two, Malkin is still locked into a long-term contract with Pittsburgh. Malkin is five years into the eight-year/$76 million extension he signed back in 2013. To do some math, Malkin is being paid $28.5 million dollars for the next three seasons.

In a stage of decline, if the Penguins do enter a rebuild (or even a small retooling process), Malkin could be one of the first names out of the Steel City. This kind of opportunity to trade for a superstar in the NHL isn’t common, only seeming to happen once every two years.

With these reports, there is lots of excitement swirling around Panthers Twitter as of late. For good reason, too, pairing Evgeni Malkin – a former league MVP with new head coach Joel Quenneville – has “Stanley Cup contenders” written all over it.

Malkin would be an ideal veteran leader in a relatively young forward core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, among others.

Malkin also hasn’t taken too much of a step back in terms of production. Despite the center being labeled as injury prone since his Hart-winning season, Malkin has still played at least 70% of the regular season over the last six seasons, including all of the playoffs.

In that time, Malkin has always been a point-per-game player, including his 2017-18 season, in which Malkin had 98 points across 78 games and was a strong contender for the Hart trophy for most of the campaign.

So, if you’re the Florida Panthers, this seems like an ideal situation to take the next step as a team. The possibility of adding a veteran leader with a resume as incredible as Malkin’s doesn’t come often.

The problems with this prospect come with the subtractions that will come with this possible deal.

So, time to talk about this as a possible trade. Jim Rutherford has never admitted to shopping Malkin, nor showing interest in it; he just said that he wasn’t sure about his future.

This kind of statement is expected. The Penguins are fresh off being swept and might need some time to consider their next move as an organization.

With that, there’s no leverage the that Panthers would have in these hypothetical trade talks. That word, “leverage,” is hugely important when considering trading for a superstar. To look into that some more, let’s look at a previous star being traded, Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson was the last “superstar” to be traded in the NHL, being dealt to San Jose for a package containing Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Mikkel Boedker, two forward prospects, as well as two high draft picks.

While this package seems small when trading for the services of a two-time Norris winner in his prime, San Jose had leverage on Ottawa.

Karlsson was unhappy with the organization and formally requested a trade, which dropped his trade value. Knowing that he wouldn’t want to be around, Ottawa weren’t able to receive as much as they could have for the Swede.

Karlsson was also on an expiring contract, which meant the Sharks had less risk in making a move for him if he underperformed. In any case, if Karlsson underperformed or wanted more money, the Sharks were in a good situation to be able to swiftly move on.

In comparison, the Panthers trade for Malkin isn’t the same. As mentioned earlier, Malkin is owed $28.5 million over three years, so if this trade doesn’t pay off, it’s not like the Cats can simply move on like San Jose can.

The one way that the Panthers can avoid paying as much of that $28.5 million sum is to have Pittsburgh retain some of Malkin’s salary. While this idea works hypothetically for Florida, it further increases Malkin’s trade value.

So, let’s finally explore who Pittsburgh may look for in this trade. The Pens would seek forwards to replace Malkin’s goalscoring, so some fan favorites would be exposed in the deal.

Some big pieces would likely include one of Evgenii Dadonov or Vincent Trocheck, proven point-getters with affordable contracts and plenty of time left in their careers.

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The Pens would likely also want a young prospect that they could develop with their new young forward core, including Jake Guentzel, Zac Aston-Reece, and former Panther Jared McCann.

For this, Rutherford would likely target one of Frank Vatrano, Henrik Borgstrom, or Owen Tippett; three players holding respectable potential, also with NHL experience.

Finally, Pittsburgh would likely look for an additional draft pick. The Panthers have made a habit of moving draft picks as of late, including multiple picks in the Mike Hoffman deal.

In the case Pittsburgh retains some salary, the Pens would also look to add a smaller piece, such as Josh Brown or Denis Malgin.

To recap, that’s Evgeni Malkin, former Hart winner and veteran leader with a large contract and injury concerns, for, hypothetically, Vincent Trocheck (26-years-old in July), Henrik Borgstrom (or Vatrano or Tippett), Denis Malgin (22-years-old), and at least a 2nd round pick.

Make what you want of that trade. It could completely pan out, with Malkin settling in where he left off in Pittsburgh, a quality 2nd center on a cup-contending squad.

It could also completely flop, where Malkin doesn’t fit in a Joel Quenneville team, regresses with injury, while Trocheck and Borgstrom thrive away from Florida.

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For now, it’s all just speculation. Whether the Panthers do add Malkin or are able to keep hold of their young core, either scenario could be really exciting.