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June 18, 2019
Malkin Makes It Official
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Only a few weeks ago, Evgeni Malkin was strapped to a steel table in the secret underground lair of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, a laser threatening to slice him in two. He looked around the sinister chamber, taking the measure of his oppressive company, and asked the obvious question.
"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr. Malkin. We expect you to sign."
And sign he did, agreeing to a new one-year contract with his Russian pro team, apparently postponing his dream of playing in the NHL for yet another season. But dreams die hard. With the help of his very own laser pen, buzzsaw wrist watch, and exploding cufflinks, Malkin escaped his captors, commandeered a plane to Finland, and eventually emerged in North America, determined to save the world, or at least the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Malkin officially signed with the Penguins on Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year contract very similar to the one countryman Alexander Ovechkin received from the Washington Capitals. The contract calls for a base salary of $984, 000, plus incentives that could add up to an additional $2.85 million. That's a lot of borsht.
With the deal signed, Malkin participated in an informal workout with the Penguins Tuesday morning, skating for the first time with Sidney Crosby. And the hockey world will never be the same. Afterwards, Malkin strapped on a jetpack and dropped in on the press conference announcing his signing.
The team welcomed reporters with a DVD of Malkin highlights, as well as a brief recap of all major James Bond films. The latter was of particular interest to Roger Moore and George Lazenby, who were both in attendance. Although, it should be noted Lazenby works as a janitor at the Mellon Arena, so he's pretty much always there.
When the lights came back up, owner Mario Lemieux presented Malkin with his new Penguins sweater, sporting his customary No. 71. The two posed for photos before Malkin began fielding questions from the audience with the help of his interpreter, Olga McQueen. And, yes, that is her real name. Pussy Galore was busy.
Aside from saying how happy he was to be with the Penguins and that he felt his relationship with Metallurg Magnitogorsk was improving, Malkin also revealed the story behind his jersey number, saying he originally wore 11 as a child, but it was already in use when he joined Magnitogorsk, so he chose what he considered the next closest thing in 71. Before he had a chance to elaborate on how 71 is closer to 11 than 12, a knife-wielding Herve Villechaize leapt from a secret compartment in the podium and attacked the young superstar. Malkin quickly subdued his tiny tormentor, dispatching him with a karate chop to the neck and stuffing him inside a dessert cart. The danger averted, Malkin triumphantly left the press conference, a martini in one hand and a beautiful brunette in the other.
While the Penguins fully expect Metallurg Magnitogorsk to file a lawsuit over Malkin's departure, similar action has always been dismissed in North American courts. Metallurg Magnitogorsk has no one to blame but themselves. Malkin was always up-front with his desires to play in the NHL. He only agreed to stay in Russia during the 2005-06 season because they promised him he'd be able to leave in time for 2006-07. But instead of consenting to the standard transfer agreement, which would have given them $250,000 for allowing Malkin to leave, Magnitogorsk got greedy, absurdly demanding as much as $25 million.
Everyone is trying to paint Malkin as a liar for breaking his contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, but that's absolutely ridiculous. Magnitogorsk lied to Malkin. They're the ones who broke their word. They let greed get in the way of character. Instead of doing the right thing, they tried to strong-arm a teenager, basically taking him into a room and not letting him leave until he signed a new contract.
Screw Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the ear. They don't deserve a second of anyone's sympathy. Malkin didn't do anything wrong. He told them all along he wanted to leave. He gave them an extra year. He did everything he was supposed to do. And when Metallurg Magnitogorsk started getting all Humphrey Bogart in "The Treasure of Sierra Madre," Malkin followed Russian labor law. He didn't defect. This isn't 1960. Russia is no longer a communist regime. What Malkin did is no different than what my Uncle Earl did when he left the Piggly Wiggly to fulfill his dreams of working at the Dairy Queen. Get over it.
What people should be focusing on is Malkin's unbelievable talent, and the impact he and Crosby will have on not only the Penguins, but the entire NHL. Once he adjusts to life in North America, Malkin, who turned 20 this summer, is going to be 40 goals and 100 points every year. While his size, reach, and smarts will obviously draw comparisons to Lemieux, he's vastly superior to Mario at the same age in terms of competitiveness and defensive responsibility. Malkin's a complete hockey player, excelling at both ends of the ice, and he's got a bit of a mean streak. He isn't scared to get chippy.
I kept Malkin out of our recent Player Ratings because he has yet to play an NHL game, and who knows how he'll fit in just yet, but Crosby is the only center I'd take ahead of Malkin. And it would be a pick 'em between him and Ovechkin. In terms of numbers alone, I expect Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza to score more points next season, but Malkin should be right there with the likes of Eric Staal and Olli Jokinen. The difference, of course, being Malkin is already a better two-way player than any of them.
In Crosby and Malkin, Pittsburgh now has this generation's Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. They are going to dominate the league for the next decade. And it begins now.