In his wrap-up press conference Wednesday morning, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero not only confirmed that coach Dan Bylsma and his staff will be around for awhile, but also reiterated that it was only a matter of time until star center Evgeni Malkin was signed to a new long-term contract.
As it turned out, a matter of time was less than 24 hours.
The Penguins announced Thursday morning that the club had agreed to terms with Malkin on an eight-year, $76-million extension, which will begin in 2014 and last through the 2021-22 season. The deal will pay 26-year-old Malkin $9.5 million per year, an $800,000 annual raise over his current contract.
Although a concussion and a lingering shoulder issue limited Malkin’s production this season, the terms of the fresh contract can be considered a bargain for the Penguins. The native of Magnitogorsk, Russia has won two NHL scoring titles, accumulated more than 100 points in a season three times and collected his first league MVP award last year.
The second-overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Malkin has 560 points (217g, 343a) in 458 regular-season games, placing him seventh on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder also won a Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP in 2009 when the Penguins claimed the Stanley Cup.
According to TSN reporter Darren Dreger, the Penguins will pay Malkin a $10-million signing bonus, which may have contributed to keeping the contract’s annual pay lower than expected. Malkin could’ve commanded $10 million or more per year if he tested free agency one year from now. The new contract’s $9.5 million average annual value (AAV) outpaces the $8.7 million salary earned by fellow elite centerman Sidney Crosby on a deal that was signed last summer.
Operating under the previous NHL collective bargaining agreement, the Penguins were able to “front-load” Crosby’s 12-year extension that kicks in next season. While Crosby will make $12 million over the next two years and as much as $10 million through 2021-22, the contract tapers to $3 million in its last three seasons, thus reducing the AAV, which determines how much a player counts against the league’s salary cap.
That type of deal is outlawed under the current CBA, meaning the Penguins couldn’t be as creative in paying Malkin. Nevertheless, despite a so-so 2013 and a rough end to the playoffs (along with Crosby), Malkin deserves to remain among the NHL’s best-compensated players.
For the next nine years, he will be.