We may be approaching the end of an era in Pittsburgh.
On Monday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported that superstar forward Evgeni Malkin will be hitting the free agent market on July 13.
Breaking: Sources say Evgeni Malkin has decided to go to the open market on Wednesday. Malkin has never been a free agent before and wants to see what his options are.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 11, 2022
The door isn't completely closed for a return to Pittsburgh, as the Penguins are still open to a reunion with the franchise icon, per Seth Rorabaugh of the Tribune-Review.
Malkin, 35, has spent his entire 16-year career with the Penguins, who drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. The Magnitogorsk, Russia native has scored 444 goals and registered 702 assists for 1,146 points in 981 NHL games, while adding 180 points in 177 playoff games.
Malkin is coming off an eight-year, $76 million deal that he signed prior to the 2014-2015 season.
The Athletic's Bob Rossi reported that Pittsburgh was reluctant to offer Malkin a four-year deal, which is reportedly the minimum term that the forward was looking for.
The Penguins NEVER offered 4 years to Evgeni Malkin. His camp reportedly tried to get there with GM Ron Hextall, and closest they got was “what it could look like.” The 4-year contract was NOT on table from Penguins.
— Rob Rossi (@Real_RobRossi) July 11, 2022
Rossi also previously reported that Malkin told some teammates by text message that the Penguins "think [he's] not good anymore."
The potential departure would be sobering to both the franchise and its fans, after the city witnessed three Stanley Cups with captain Sidney Crosby, star defenceman Kris Letang and Malkin leading the way. The trio have shared the ice and locker room since the 2006-07 season, and have never missed the playoffs in 16 seasons together.
After Penguins re-signed Letang to a six-year contract extension last week, and with Crosby signed through 2024-25, there was optimism the front office could keep the band together and take a shot at one more Cup.
However, barring a dramatic turn of events, it seems No. 71 will be looking for a new challenge when free agency officially opens Wednesday.
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