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2022 NHL Free Agency

Malkin Set To Leave Penguins, Hit Free Agency; Anything There For Capitals?



Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and UFA Evgeni Malkin

The Washington Capitals will see a long-time rival hit the free agent market. After getting to an apparently bitter crossroads, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins will part ways.

Per multiple reports, Malkin is set to hit free agency for the first time in his historic 16-year career, leaving the team that he helped build into a dynasty. When it comes to negotiations, general manager Ron Hextall and the Penguins were firm on a three-year deal. Malkin apparently either wanted a higher AAV for three years or four years. However, Pittsburgh wouldn’t budge, leading to Malkin’s decision.

When it comes to Geno, is there anything there for the Capitals?

Washington made a shocking move on Monday, choosing not to issue a qualifying offer to goaltender Ilya Samsonov. Per the Capitals, it was a financial decision. Samsonov had his arbitration rights and a potential deal likely carried a $3-3.5 million AAV. And, given the cap situation and a lengthy to-do list this offseason, they wanted to go in a different direction.

Now, Washington needs to figure out its goaltending situation, as they just have one netminder left under contract in Zach Fucale. Given the circumstances, the club is likely confident in what it will do in net.

READ MORE ON WHN: Why The Capitals Didn’t Qualify Samsonov

Beyond netminding, the Capitals also need secondary scoring and potentially a top-6 center, as Nicklas Backstrom will be out long-term after hip resurfacing surgery and Tom Wilson will be out until at least December following ACL surgery. As of right now, general manager Brian MacLellan said the team is operating under the belief that Backstrom will return at some point, and therefore, won’t go out and use his $9.25 million cap space to splurge on a top player.

Looking at Malkin, there are pros and cons. He had 42 points in 41 games last season and has shown he can still be a top contributor. Plus, he can score clutch goals and help run a power play. However, he is 36 and just had knee surgery back in the 2021 offseason. Plus, he has had multiple injuries over the last few seasons, and the closest he has come to a full campaign was in 2017-18 when he laced ’em up for 78 games. He hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2008-09.

In the end, the price and term don’t seem right. Malkin is approaching 37, and there are a lot of risks that come with signing him. While he can boost a power play and has the Russian connection with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, questions regarding his availability and durability over time make a commitment tough. Plus, the team wants to inject youth into the lineup, and will likely turn to Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and more to battle it out for those bigger roles. And, of course, the main place to spend money on this offseason is between the pipes.