It's going to be a critical offseason for the Pittsburgh Penguins and general manager Ron Hextall in particular. Of course, he's going to be tasked with being able to keep his team competitive while also trying to re-sign several key free-agents, including the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Rickard Rakell, and others.
As they say, all good things must come to an end, and there has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of Malkin in Pittsburgh, the only NHL city that he's ever known. He'll forever be a Steel City sports legend, having played key roles in three Penguins Stanley Cup championships that also included winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP in 2009.
And while contract negotiations between the two sides remain ongoing, the latest update isn't encouraging at all. In fact, it essentially closes the book on the relationship between the Penguins and Malkin.
The Athletic's Josh Yohe reported earlier today that based on numerous conversations with NHL player agents, the consensus is that Malkin is "unlikely" to return to the Penguins next season:
"Numerous agents have told me that, after conversations they’ve had with Penguins general manager Ron Hextall, they believe it’s unlikely that Evgeni Malkin is returning to Pittsburgh. Some people I’ve spoken with in the Penguins organization feel the same way.
So, is Malkin gone?
It’s impossible to say, but here’s what I know: Hextall is willing to sign him at a certain price. However, sources said the two sides haven’t been speaking regularly after initial talks when the Penguins’ season ended on May 15. Hockey people who speak with Hextall on a regular basis are very much under the impression that Malkin’s return to the Penguins is no sure thing."
The 36-year-old Russian forward has just completed an eight-year contract that paid him an average of $9.5 million per year. It truly will be the end of an era for Pittsburgh sports should Malkin ultimately be wearing another NHL jersey next season.