Sharks owner Hasso Plattner was adamant that when he mentioned Penguins star Evgeni Malkin’s name during a recent press conference, he was only using the Russian forward as an example and wasn’t tampering.
“We cannot buy the Stanley Cup,” said the billionaire founder of SAP on May 8, before casually mentioning that Malkin wasn’t a player the Sharks could just go out and spend to acquire.
Still, some have suggested that Malkin could be on the move this summer. The Penguins were recently eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and may be looking to shake things up this offseason now that it’s been six years since their last Stanley Cup and they fritter away the prime of Sidney Crosby’s career. Malkin is their highest paid player, carrying a $9.5 million salary cap hit through 2021-22.
If both Malkin and the Penguins are ready for a change, there aren’t too many other teams that could take on Malkin’s salary. The Sharks could. San Jose currently has more than $14.1 million of cap space according to generalfanager.com, and although the club still must agree to terms with some of its restricted free agents (and add a goalie), finding a way to fit the 28-year-old Malkin onto the roster wouldn’t be overly difficult.
So, whom could the Sharks offer for Malkin? Brent Burns is the most likely place to start, as the Penguins have just four defensemen signed through next season. The talented Kris Letang is one of them, but he has dealt with some recent serious health issues including a stroke and multiple concussions. Letang, like Burns, is an offensively gifted right-handed shot. Burns, 30, can also play forward, where he spent a very productive season-and-a-half in San Jose.
Burns alone wouldn’t come close to getting the deal done, as the Sharks would certainly have to offer more assets, but he could very well be the centerpiece of a major transaction.
Doug Wilson has already hinted that the Sharks are in a position this summer to take advantage of a team that may run into salary cap issues.
“Teams will make some decisions based on where [the salary cap] will be in the future,” Wilson said on the March 2nd NHL trade deadline. “We’re positioned at the other point. We have opportunities to acquire some players coming forward.”
Could Malkin be in the general manager’s sights? Maybe Hasso was onto something.
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Speaking of trade rumors, the Sharks remain in the market for a goaltender. Ottawa’s Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson, and Rangers backup Cam Talbot were mentioned last week as potential Sharks targets, although Wilson is almost certainly casting a much wider net in his search for a replacement for Antti Niemi.
Talbot is an intriguing name, after going 21-9-4 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season while backing up Henrik Lundqvist (and playing well when Lundqvist was injured). If the Rangers want a first round pick in return for Talbot, though, that’s probably too high of a price for the Sharks to pay, especially if it’s this year’s selection at ninth overall.
Lehner, by the way, isn’t very high on the Sharks’ list from what I’ve heard.
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As was mentioned here recently, Matt Irwin is the most intriguing name among the Sharks’ pending unrestricted free agents on July 1. The defenseman struggled mightily in the first half of the season but had a strong second half.
I’m getting the impression – and I could be wrong here – that the Sharks won’t be re-signing Irwin before the end of the month, if at all. Whether that’s the team’s decision, or if Irwin would like to test the market, is unclear.