'Do they want me?': Evgeni Malkin wonders about Penguins future

The Pittsburgh Penguins might be starting next season without their legendary trio that has earned them three Stanley Cups in the modern era.

Evgeni Malkin is a pending unrestricted free agent and, as of July 13, is free to sign with any team in the NHL for the first time in his 16-year career. But the 35-year-old center has just one question on his mind about the only team he has known.

“Do they want me?” Malkin reportedly said in a text, per The Athletic.

Has Evgeni Malkin played his last game as a Penguin? (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
Has Evgeni Malkin played his last game as a Penguin? (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Penguins have reportedly been playing hardball with any offer to this point in contract negotiations. While the team re-signed a fellow franchise cornerstone in defenseman Kris Letang to a six-year, $36.6-million deal on Friday, Malkin has dealt with offers that were short-term and not substantial enough to lock up the potential Hall of Famer.

According to reports, the Penguins sent a two-year, $12-million contract offer to Malkin’s camp near the end of the regular season, and have recently upped that offer to three years at the same annual salary.

The only issue is, he might not want to play anywhere else but Pittsburgh, and those recent offers have put him in a place where he feels he isn’t wanted. He expressed these self-doubts when Letang and other teammate Bryan Rust secured long-term deals and each player asked him if he was next.

“They think I’m not good anymore,” Malkin reportedly said in response.

There is no doubt the Penguins are concerned with Malkin’s recent injury troubles – the center has appeared in just 74 games through the last two seasons – but seeing him in any colors other than black and gold next season will be too weird to handle.

Despite missing a chunk of time, Malkin has still been able to produce at a top-tier level, scoring 20 goals and 42 points in 41 games last season. It might take some time for him to get over a potential breakup with the Penguins, but he should certainly have a number of contract offers from the 31 other teams.

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