Stop for a minute and let this sink in: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will play the prime of their careers in Pittsburgh.
Last July, Crosby signed a 12-year, $104.4-million contract extension that has an $8.7 million cap hit and will keep him with the team through the 2024-25 season. The priority for the organization this summer was to get their other superstar center Malkin locked up to a long-term deal as quickly as possible, and the parties did just that – agreeing just six days after Pittsburgh’s season ended.
Malkin and the Penguins agreed to terms on an eight-year contract extension on Thursday, which is the absolute maximum length allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement. The deal begins with the 2014-15 season and runs through the 2021-22 campaign and has an average annual value of $9.5 million (a raise of $800,000 from his previous deal, which had a cap hit of $8.7 million).
“I think when you have two franchise players like this, if you can do everything you can to keep them, and you can continue to do that under the salary cap system, I want to try to do that,” general manager Ray Shero said.
Shero said he spoke with Crosby, and the captain – who signed his contract before the new CBA was reached – had absolutely no issue with the slightly differing numbers in Malkin’s deal.
“’Sid’ was in the loop, for sure, in terms of that conversation and the conversation I had with him yesterday,” Shero said. “I just wanted to double check just to make sure that he understood this, and of course he did. Whatever’s best for the team, love to have ‘Geno’ here (he said). It didn’t matter to him, and (Crosby) is very thrilled with his deal, thrilled to be in Pittsburgh and he’s very happy for ‘Geno.’ He was here this morning to see him, so that was great.”
Malkin is just as thrilled to play alongside Crosby for the rest of his career, calling him the “best player in the world.” Malkin has learned a lot from Crosby during their first seven seasons together, and hopes to continue that over the next nine. Malkin, who’s also thought of as one of the best players in the world, also hopes that the lure of playing with him and Crosby will continue to draw coveted NHLers to Pittsburgh.
They enjoy playing together, which is great. They get along well. I saw Evgeni’s comments today and I think he believes in the core of this team and that we can have a chance to win again. I think that’s the goal for everybody. And having these guys under contract gives us the best chance. - Ray Shero, on locking up Crosby and Malkin
“I like playing with him,” Malkin said with a laugh. “I like to sometimes battle with him because I think he is the best player in the world. Every day I look to Sid in practice and learn how to work hard from Sid. We are two big players and I think we help the team to win. I know some players like to play with us and sign contracts in Pittsburgh because we play in Pittsburgh. It’s good for the team. We try to be the best and show our best hockey and help the team.”
What Crosby and Malkin have achieved in their individual careers so far is truly special, and we’d be here forever if we listed out everything they’ve done in their years in this league. But the one they achieved together is the crown jewel. When Crosby was 21 years old and Malkin just 22, they led Pittsburgh to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup championship and first since back-to-back trophies in 1991 and ’92.
Malkin truly believes that he and Crosby will team up to bring another Stanley Cup to this city in the years to come, saying, “we’re still young, you know? Sid is staying here a long time. We’re a group who won the Stanley Cup before and I believe we will win again.”
Though it’s easy to lose sight of sometimes since they’ve been in the league for years, they really are both still young – Malkin is 26, Crosby is 25 – and entering the primes of their careers. Even considering everything they’ve done so far, their best hockey may still be ahead. And they’re going to be playing it together.
“They enjoy playing together, which is great,” Shero said. “They get along well. I saw Evgeni’s comments today and I think he believes in the core of this team and that we can have a chance to win again. I think that’s the goal for everybody. And having these guys under contract gives us the best chance.”