By Allan Muir
Shortly after the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they’d signed Evgeni Malkin to an eight-year, $76 million extension this morning, the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks tweeted a pretty tidy perspective on the deal. The numbers illustrate the massive risk that the Pens have exposed themselves to with this contract and the 12-year, $104.4 million deal signed by Sidney Crosby last year. But when you’ve got the chance to lock down the two best players in the world, what else are you gonna do?
The Penguins will spend 28.3% of their salary on two players that have missed 32.7% of the last four seasons.—
RMNB (@russianmachine) June 13, 2013
Risk aside, this agreement is still a big win for GM Ray Shero, who is doing a nice job of getting his house in order ahead of the draft and the start of free agency. Trading a game-breaking talent like former MVP Malkin, or worse, letting him escape for nothing next summer, was never an option. This deal keeps the player happy, and ensures that Pittsburgh employs the best 1-2 center punch in hockey for nearly a decade to come.
The average annual value of Malkin’s extension is $9.5 million, which is noticeably, if not significantly, higher than the $8.7 million AAV of Crosby’s deal. Don’t expect that to be a problem.
If Shero ever had any intention of using Crosby’s number as a ceiling, in the manner that Boston’s Harry Sinden depressed every other Bruin’s contract with his Ray Bourque Rule, that plan was kiboshed by the term limits applied through the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Crosby’s term and total were considerably greater than what Shero could offer Malkin, so boosting his AAV was his only recourse to “level” the financial playing field.
Still, Malkin took a discount to get the deal done. Forget about those $15 million per year in the KHL rumors for a minute. If Pittsburgh hadn’t eagerly taken care of him at this point, there would have been a line of teams happy to do so next summer, and $10 million would have been just the starting point.
So good on Malkin, and Crosby, for aiding the organization by leaving money on the table. Unfortunately, it might not be enough to impact negotiations with Kris Letang, who also needs an extension this summer. The Norris Trophy-finalist is said to be looking for something in the range of the deals signed last summer by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, which would put him between $7-8 million per year for eight years.
Letang won’t get that from Pittsburgh. Instead, look for an offer somewhere in the range of five years, $33 million. If that doesn’t get it done, he’ll get shipped out of town–sooner rather than later–to maximize his return in a Jordan Staal-style deal, and his roster spot will be contested by the wealth of young defensive talent Shero has wisely stockpiled through trades and the draft.
Always seems like he’s one step ahead, doesn’t it?