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Evgeni Malkin "Unlikely" to Return to Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins and star center Evgeni Malkin remain far apart on contract negotiations.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Final has concluded, meaning offseason news has started to pick up exponentially. With only a few weeks until the NHL draft and the opening of free agency, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall is hard at work trying to get a few deals done before they hit the open market. Negotiations with star center Evgeni Malkin have seemingly stalled out in recent weeks.

According to The Athletic's Josh Yohe, several sources believe it is unlikely that a deal will get done between Malkin and the Penguins this summer. Yohe believes that Hextall is willing to bring back Malkin, but is unwilling to do it above a certain price. As recently as last week, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that the Penguins and Malkin were willing to agree on the term, but that "the money wasn't close."

Malkin has stated multiple times throughout the past year that he would be willing to take a pay cut to remain with the Penguins. However, it seems that it is not enough to appease Hextall, who is also negotiating with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, and has several holes to fill throughout the Penguins lineup. 

The 35-year-old center is heading into his 17th NHL season but has faced several injuries over the past few years that have caused him to miss significant time, including half of last year's regular season. Despite coming off a torn ACL, Malkin finished the year with 20 goals and 42 points, collecting over a point per game for the 14th time in his 16-year NHL career.

Malkin is coming off of an eight-year contract that made him the highest-paid Penguin throughout the prime of his career, as well as that of Sidney Crosby. If he fails to come to terms with the Penguins, Malkin could choose one of many different paths for next season. Whether he signs with another NHL franchise or heads home to play in the KHL, Malkin will have no shortage of opportunities.

Only a few weeks remain until the opening of NHL free agency, leaving plenty of time for Malkin's status with the Penguins to become more clear.

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