The Pittsburgh Penguins have barely stopped to take a breath since their disappointing elimination from the Eastern Conference Final this past Friday.
Less than a day after announcing the re-signing of coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins announced that franchise center Evgeni Malkin, 26, has been signed to a new long-term contract Thursday morning.
"I'm so happy," Malkin said on a conference call.
Malkin's extension, which starts in the 2014-15 season, is for eight seasons at $76 million, an average value of $9.5 million per year that makes him the highest-paid player on a team that includes Sidney Crosby.
The eight-year deal is the longest allowed under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in January. Malkin still has one season remaining at $8.7 million on his previous contract.
Evgeni Malkin - 2013 PLAYOFFS
Center - PIT
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 16
SOG: 67 | +/-: -2
"He's a caring player, a hard-working player," Penguins general manager Ray Shero
said. "I believe his best days are ahead of him."
The signing of Malkin gives the Penguins some long-term security with both franchise players are under contract long term. Crosby signed a 12-year contract extension last June, worth $8.7 million per season.
"I think it is good," Malkin said. "I like playing with Sidney."
Shero said it is beneficial to have both players signed as they try to plan the future and make some decisions on the roster. The next big one involves defenseman Kris Letang, who will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.
"We'll certainly turn our attention to Kris in the next little bit," Shero said. "He is a key player for us."
Malkin said Thursday his first choice was to stay in Pittsburgh for as long as possible, continuing the eight-year relationship with the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh that has meant so much to him.
Malkin still fondly remembers his arrival in Pittsburgh from Russia, saying it is one of his favorite memories of an NHL career full of accolades.
"I think my first year when I come and see how people liked me and [were] happy to see me here," Malkin said when asked about his favorite memories in Pittsburgh. "I remember when I stepped on the ice and everybody stood up and clapped for me. My heart was beating so hard and it was an unbelievable memory."
Other memories have followed.
Malkin is one of three Penguins to win multiple Art Ross trophies as the NHL scoring leader, joining Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Malkin also has won the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Calder Trophy. He has topped 30 goals four times and 100 points on three occasions. He has been named to four NHL All-Star Games.
"I like the city. It's good for hockey," Malkin said. "I have all my fans here. It's a good team; I hope we win the Stanley Cup."
The Penguins thought they had a chance this season but were derailed by a Boston Bruins team that allowed two goals in a four-game sweep. Malkin and Crosby were held without a goal for the series.
Yet Malkin sees a bright future for the club, which has won a Stanley Cup (2009), been to another Final (2008) and made it to three Eastern Conference Finals in the past six years.
"We're still young," Malkin said. "We are a group who won Stanley Cup before and I believe we will win again."
Shero said Malkin's belief in the Penguins certainly helped in the negotiations.
"I think he believes in the core of this team and that we can win again," Shero said. "Having these guys under contract gives us the best chance."
Malkin battled injuries this season and finished with nine goals and 33 points in 31 games. He added four goals and 16 points in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Two seasons ago, Malkin scored a career-high 50 goals with 109 points and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. He has 217 goals and 560 points in 458 regular-season games. He was the second pick in the 2004 NHL Draft behind fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin.
Malkin won the Conn Smythe as the Penguins captured the Stanley Cup in 2009, putting up 14 goals and 36 points in 24 games. This postseason, he was the team's co-leading scorer with 16 points in 15 games. He has 36 goals and 97 points in 83 postseason games.