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Mack: About Those Malkin Trade Rumors...

Penguins Won't Get Better By Subtracting Talent

Chris Mack
May 01, 2019 - 7:26 am

Can we please cut out the nonsense of this notion that Evgeni Malkin could be traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer? It’s nothing more than General Manager Jim Rutherford using the media to gauge interest in an idea that, at this point, should have fans shaking their heads.

Only in the NHL could a GM spend two weeks essentially asking everyone if they think a 4-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs is worthy of a near-total teardown of the core of a team less than 24 months removed from back-to-back championships.

That’s where we are with Rutherford and the Penguins, though.

Don’t question it for even a split second: The idea of trading Evgeni Malkin this summer is utter nonsense.

Don’t think so? Please, enlighten me. Explain to me how on earth a team becomes better by getting rid of one of the 10 most skilled players in the world.

It won’t happen.

Now, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Rutherford, a GM who’s well versed in trying to light a flame under players who aren’t playing the way he’d like them to, is simply trying to get the attention of his 32-year-old Russian superstar by floating that trial balloon of a possible deal, and perhaps putting a little spark into Malkin as he comes off one of the worst statistical seasons of his career.

The last time Rutherford tried to spark his club it was a trade of Carl Hagelin last October though, and while it worked for a few games, ultimately his team didn’t have the speed necessary to compete in the first round of playoffs against the New York Islanders.

And that’s what the evaluation of the current Penguins roster should come down to in the end.

Speed. Athleticism. Talent.

And a coach and players willing to work with each other to get the best out of the speed, skill, and talent that remains in those aging stars. The last thing the Penguins need to do is deduct speed, athleticism, and talent from the roster, regardless of whether Head Coach Mike Sullivan can handle that talent or not.

While it is incumbent upon both Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang to play a more responsible style, it doesn’t mean that they’re lost causes, or need to be traded this off-season. The amount of talent collected on the Penguins roster, including those who move particularly well for guys now on the backside of their careers, is not going to be helped by getting rid of some of their better skaters, particularly those two.

When you add the considerably sizeable hindrance that ownership, especially Mario Lemieux, wouldn’t seem to have much of an appetite for choosing a coach over extremely skilled players, the idea of trading Malkin or Letang really crystallizes into absolute nonsense.

Sullivan did an incredible job in getting his stars to buy in 2016 and 2017.

Why didn’t it work in 2019?

Was it because Malkin and Letang didn’t listen? If so, why didn’t they? And why do we not look at the two-way relationship that exists between a coach and a player and ask if maybe there needs to be a meeting – much like the one Sullivan had with Phil Kessel last summer – to re-emphasize to Malkin and Letang that Sullivan wants what’s best for the team, and that’s Malkin and Letang at their best?

That’s a question for Sullivan to come together and answer with Malkin and Letang, not without them.

With so much anger swirling about the way the two of them played, and rightfully so, it’s all too simple for some to want to make this Sully’s team, and assume that it means getting rid of Malkin and Letang.

It’s not though. It’s about those players – and the head coach – getting on the same page. That doesn’t absolve one side or the other of blame for an early 2019 exit. What it does is put the onus on all of them, collectively, and the organization, up to and including the general manager and ownership, to realize that men can come together, sit down in a room, hash out their problems, and realize that their best chance to win a championship is together. Sullivan. Malkin. Letang.

And no amount of nonsense being floated by the GM should make you think any differently.