The St. Louis Blues have relied on trades more than free agency in recent years, though they have definitely dabbled in the summer signings. The biggest recent one is probably brining in Torey Krug in 2020.
Who the Blues look to bring in for the summer of 2022 is anyone’s guess. There are plenty of names out there of interest.
It is more a question of who is realistic. One name that might be too far out there is Evgeni Malkin.
It seems hard to imagine the Russian center playing for anyone but the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the rumblings are that the Penguins do not plan to bring back the pending unrestricted free agent. That’s kind of harsh, but the realities teams face in the salary cap age and for a team that is trying to retool instead of rebuild.
It would definitely be a change for Malkin to not be in Pittsburgh. He’s 19 games shy of 1000 for his career and all 981 of those have been in a Penguins sweater.
Like Sidney Crosby, Malkin has been in the league since a young age, so he seems older than he is. That’s not to say 35 is young for the NHL, but Malkin could easily have two-to-four more productive years if he has the will.
The worry for any prospective team is money and/or health. Malkin is coming off a huge contract and has also only played a combined 74 games the last two seasons, missing 20-40 games each year.
The draw for Malkin comes in his production. Even only playing 41 games in 2021-22, Malkin still scored 20 goals and had 42 points.
You never know when someone’s offensive abilities will fall off the edge, but a point per game is impressive no matter what your age. Malkin isn’t a bruiser, but he’s no pushover and would fit with the Blues by giving them a strong presence up the middle.
St. Louis can confidently say they’re good up the middle with Ryan O’Reilly, Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn and either Logan Brown, Ivan Barbashev or Dakota Joshua. However, if you can pick up someone like Malkin, you easily move one of those guys to the wing and give yourself even more depth.
Yet, production is not the worry. Most Blues fans would be happy with 25 goals and 70 points, which is what he’s capable of, even when not playing a full year.
Again, the problem becomes he’s rarely played a full year. In 16 seasons, Malkin has played 82 games twice. He has only played more than 70 games three other times, giving him five years out of 16 where you got a healthy Malkin for the vast majority of the year.
The other elephant in the room is the money. Malkin is coming off a contract that paid him $9.5 million.
I’ve heard a couple pundits say that Malkin is not interested in money this time around. He just wants to go to a team that can win.
That sounds wonderful, and the Blues would fit that bill, but that’s talk. Athletes have a tendency to say it’s not about the money and then still demand a pretty high dollar amount.
Even if you cut that last contract in half, the Blues might be better served to spend $4-5 million on defense. Would he even take that kind of pay cut?
Maybe. It’s unlikely, but Malkin has earned over $120 million over the course of his career, so maybe a Stanley Cup would be worth taking a pay cut.
It just all feels like too much of a reach. You have to hope he’s willing to take a lot less money, can stay relatively healthy and keeps his production relatively high on a new team in a new conference.
However, if you want to keep that hope alive, there is one unlikely way the Blues might pull it off, just like there was one unlikely way they could trade for Jesse Puljujarvi. You have to convince Malkin to sign a bonus-laden contract.
The Blues did this for Tyler Bozak in 2021-22. His cap hit was $750,000 but Bozak earned $2 million due to performance bonuses.
It would not be the first time for Malkin. When he entered the league, he had a small cap hit of $984,200 but earned a total of $3.84 million due to performance and signing bonuses.
Could you cut his actual cap hit even lower if he was willing to accept a bonus structure? Most owners don’t like the bonus structure because they have to pay out a large, lump sum all at once, but maybe it’s worth it to get another bona fide star for a Cup run.
While the bonuses wouldn’t count against the cap during the season, the Blues would still need to be careful on day one. It’s not a cut and dry situation where nobody but Tom Stillman needs to care about that money.
In the end, this is likely a moot point. I just don’t see Malkin wearing a Blues sweater.
It’s not impossible and the Blues might be in a better position than many in the Western Conference. Malkin is supposedly wanting to stay away from Penguins rivals, so coming west is more likely.
It will be interesting and it would be cool to see that big 71 in blues. Just don’t get your hopes up because it’s just a fantasy right now.