Rutherford fires back against Malkin trade rumors

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Evgeni Malkin has been the topic of trade rumors recently, but Penguins GM Jim Rutherford insists there’s nothing to them.

“We’re not looking to move him,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jenn Menendez. He went on to say that no team has inquired about Malkin, which seems to counter a a recent report that the Chicago Blackhawks are interested.

Of course that Blackhawks report wasn’t the first we heard about the possibility of Pittsburgh trading Malkin this summer. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos suggested a few weeks back that Malkin might be moved after the Stanley Cup Final.

Trading Malkin would free the Penguins of his $9.5 million annual cap hit, which might make some long-term sense for Pittsburgh as he’ll turn 30 on July 31st and he’s signed through 2020-21. Plus Malkin has only played in 70-plus regular season games once in the past six full NHL campaigns (that excludes the lockout shortened 2013 season). At the same time, one of the key strengths of the championship Penguins was their ability to roll out three strong lines with a star leading each unit in Sidney Crosby, Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

We’ve seen teams make dramatic moves after winning the Stanley Cup, but typically it was because the cap forced their hand. While the Penguins aren’t in an ideal cap situation, they aren’t in a position where they need to do something as drastic as trading Malkin just to get under the ceiling. So when Rutherford makes those denials, it might be reflective of a desire not to mess with a formula that just won the Stanley Cup and no urgent cap need to do so.