Evgeni Malkin

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Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

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Save for the loss of Ben Lovejoy, the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2016-17 looked a heck of a lot like the Penguins of 2015-16.

Both those teams won the Stanley Cup, of course.

But the Pens of 2017-18, while still boasting superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will have to attempt a three-peat without some key pieces from the 2017 run.

Gone are Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey, the latter of whom proved a savvy pickup by GM Jim Rutherford at the trade deadline.

It’s also possible that Matt Cullen opts for retirement.

True, the Penguins added Matt Hunwick in free agency, and they don’t expect to be without Kris Letang again next spring.

But for goalie Matt Murray, winning it all in 2018 seems a larger challenge.

“Obviously it’s not easy to win at all in this league, especially with the salary cap and the turnover that teams go through. Last year we were lucky that we didn’t lose too many guys and we had a lot of the same guys come back,” Murray told SooToday.com.

“This year it’s a little bit different. We lost some key pieces and we’re going to have a new look going into this season. But I think we’ve added some key pieces as well and I think we’re in really good shape. Of course it’s going to be difficult, but I think if there’s a team that can do it, we can do it.”

For any team that loses important players, the key to success is usually found in the organization’s youth. Enter forwards Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese. If those two can become contributors by the playoffs, it would sure help.

Rutherford will also have to come through by finding a new third-line center. That’s no easy task given the importance of the position. Bonino was a tremendous bargain for the Pens, but he’s in Nashville now.

Related: Pens can’t ‘panic’ to replace Bonino

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

PHT Morning Skate: The top 50 Russians in NHL history

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Remember that Preds fan who missed out on the Stanley Cup Final tickets? Well, the Predators are making it up to him by inviting him to the home opener next fall. (NHL.com/Preds)

–Russian magazine Sports-Express put together a list of the top 50 Russian players in NHL history. Interestingly enough, Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Bure aren’t first or second. Also, Evgeni Malkin may not have made the NHL’s top 100 list, but he couldn’t be any higher on this one. (The Hockey News)

–Two NHLers made Sports Illustrated’s list of the 50 most fashionable athletes of 2017. To no ones surprise, Henrik Lundqvist and P.K. Subban are the ones who were able to crack the top 50 (Lundqvist was ranked sixth, Subban was 15th). “My style is true to who I am and definitely different than everyone else’s style. I’m always looking for things that are uncommon and unique,” said Subban. (NHL.com)

–The Carolina Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs in quite some time, and it’s definitely hurting them at the gate. The ‘Canes currently own the second worst home attendance numbers in pro sports right now (the Chicago White Sox are the only team below them). the News Observer’s Abbie Bennett writes: “Over the last 10 years, attendance at Canes home games dropped 32 percent, with just 64 percent of all seats filled. Average home game attendance for the Canes is 11,776.” (Charlotte News Observer)

–Speaking of the Hurricanes, The Score gives us three reasons why they believe they’ll end their eight-year playoff drought. The addition of Scott Darling is huge for them. If he can give them some consistency between the pipes, they could earn a trip back to the postseason. (The Score)

–Some Golden Knights prospects got together to serve their community by preparing meals for those in need in the Vegas area:

Pittsburgh columnist believes Kessel will be traded ‘sooner rather than later’

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Phil Kessel really liked Rick Tocchet as a coach in Pittsburgh.

In fact, the Penguins winger called Tocchet his “favorite assistant coach of all time that I’ve ever played for.”

And now that Tocchet has left for Arizona, one columnist in Pittsburgh believes that Kessel’s days in a Penguins sweater are numbered.

From Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette:

I believe Phil Kessel will be traded. It might not happen this week or this month or even this offseason. But I believe it will happen sooner rather than later.

Tocchet’s departure could hasten the process.

It was clear in June, by the end of the Penguins’ second consecutive Stanley Cup run, that the organization wasn’t thrilled with Kessel. He scored 23 goals in 82 games during the regular season, not nearly enough for a player with his marvelous shooting skills. He had a huge goal — one of the most significant of the postseason — to beat Ottawa, 1-0, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final but scored just two more goals in the final 11 playoff games. Even though he had 23 points in the 25 postseason games, it was hard to find anyone in organization to say he was playing well.

My belief is Evgeni Malkin wasn’t thrilled to play on the same line with Kessel. And Sidney Crosby? Sullivan acknowledged Crosby and Kessel have no chemistry together. None.

We’d add that Kessel did have good chemistry with Nick Bonino (for a time), but Bonino’s in Nashville now.

Also, if the Penguins do indeed have their eyes on Matt Duchene, shedding Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit may be a necessity.

Now, all that being said, Kessel does have a modified no-trade list. He also turns 30 in October, with five years left on his deal. So it may not be simple to move him, even if the Penguins wanted to.