Penguins GM says Malkin might draw team’s highest salary

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The Pittsburgh Penguins made a massive investment by signing Sidney Crosby to a 12-year, $104.4 million deal, but re-signing Evgeni Malkin might even be more expensive. At least on average.

Penguins GM Ray Shero admitted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he “discussed the likelihood” of Malkin becoming the team’s highest-paid player with Crosby during their June 2012 contract discussions.

Making that happen won’t be easy; both Malkin’s and Kris Letang’s contracts expire after the 2014-15 campaign.

“I did not anticipate what the salary-cap number would be, but I‘ve said over the years that you had to anticipate the (last labor contract) was ending,” Shero said. “And I wanted to be in a position to sign (captain Sidney) Crosby, Malkin and (defenseman Kris) Letang.”

Shero didn’t explain how he could pull that off, however.

It remains to be seen if Malkin’s annual cap hit climbs from his current one, which matches Crosby’s $8.7 million mark. Letang should expect a massive bump from his $3.5 million rate, on the other hand.

Could that mean a buyout for someone who had a disappointing season for his price like $5 million defenseman Paul Martin? That’s unclear, but here’s what Shero had to say about him:

“He‘s embarrassed by the year he had,” Shero said. “He‘s promised to be the player we know he is, but it‘s up to Paul to bounce back.”

And then it will be up to Shero to decide who comes back, in the long run.