Do The Maple Leafs have Enough To Offer Pittsburgh For Evgeni Malkin?

November 27th, 2013 No Comments

1aleafWith the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins falling in the standings, both teams look to be in need of a shakeup.

In the case of the Maple Leafs, injuries to David Bolland, Tyler Bozak and now Joffrey Lupul have combined to derail them from early season success. A three game suspension handed out to Nazem Kadri didn’t help matters, nor does the fact that the Maple Leafs are giving up an average of 35.6 shots per game, ranking them 28th overall.

Injuries, the Kadri suspension, the high shots against per game total and a recent reduction in offense (Leafs have scored just 18 goals in their past ten games), have the Buds on track to be out of the playoff picture before long.

Despite employing Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and the addition of Bolland to the lineup, the Maple Leafs still lack a real number one centre. Truth be told, Toronto has not had a true number one centre since Mats Sundin patrolled the middle in 2007-08, when he scored 32 goals and added 46 assists for a total of 78 points in 74 games played.

While Bozak has done a reasonable job alongside Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul (or James van Riemsdyk), most experts would be hard pressed to anoint him a true number one centre. Kadri has done a nice job on the second line, but with Bozak and Bolland out of the lineup Kadri was given a chance to prove he was a number one centre and he failed to impress in that role.

In Bolland, the Maple Leafs have a tremendous third line centre, who, on occasion, can fill a role on the second line and/or the power play.

Unlike the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins happen to employ two of the best centres in hockey. Sidney Crosby continues to make highlight reel plays on a nightly basis, while Evgeni Malkin is more than capable of getting fans to leap out of their seats.

That said, Malkin has come under a measure of scrutiny of late for not living up to expectations. After an incredible season in which he scored 50 goals and notched a total of 109 points, Malkin has struggled to find his groove with the Penguins. Over the past 56 games, Malkin has scored a total of 13 goals, while racking up a modest 60 points.

While nobody is suggesting Malkin has lost a step or is slipping in the player rankings, there are questions about Malkin’s price tag— is he worth $8.7 million a season?, the same money Crosby earns?. With four goals and and 23 assists through 25 games played this season, Malkin ranks first overall in assists and fifth overall in the points department. On the other hand, Malkin has one power play goal, one game winning goal and a shooting percentage of 5.6 percent.

Over the past five games, Malkin has been on a nine point tear, but before that, he had registered 18 points in 20 games, including a paltry three goals.

While Crosby continues to rack up the points (first overall with 31 points through 25 games played), the Penguins could use some additional secondary scoring. Sure, the return of James Neal (nine points in his past five games) to the Penguins lineup, has bolstered  Pittsburgh’s offensive totals, as has Malkin’s recent hot streak, but after that, it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

Many experts feel the Penguins have what it takes to win a Stanley Cup this season. The Penguins top-six of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Jussi Jokinen is as formidable as they come, but do the Penguins have the depth required to get it done—can they win the Cup with what they have?

On the backend, the Penguins employ the likes of Kris Letang (who has also suffered some injuries), Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Olli Matta, Deryk Engelland and a couple of rarely dressed D-men in Rob Scuderi (11 games) and Robert Bortuzzo (15 games).

Defensively, the Penguins are giving up 2.32 goals per game, good enough for ninth overall. The Penguins Defense has combined for a total of 11 goals and 40 points— more than respectable totals.

1acuphalffullSo, with very few (if any) weaknesses throughout their lineup, would the Pittsburgh Penguins consider moving Evgeni Malkin? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

If Malkin became available, you can bet a bidding war for his services would ensue. Every team from the Florida Panthers to the Chicago Blackhawks would have to kick the tires on Malkin, as would every other NHL team.

Malkin is a World talent who, in the right environment, can carry a team. Many experts have pointed out that Malkin seems to excell when he is a one-man show in Pittsburgh, as opposed to being Crosby’s second fiddle.

With that in mind, Malkin is valuable to the Penguins, but he might just be even more valuable to a team that is willing to make him the go-to guy.

What would it take to pry Malkin away from the Penguins?

With the Penguins in the position to win right now, sending the Penguins a package of draft picks and prospects wouldn’t cut it. The penguins would be looking for top shelf talent in return for Malkin, starting with a second line centre, a top-six forward and a top-notch prospect or high draft pick.

That means 90 percent of the teams would be out of the mix, as many do not have the depth of talent the Penguins would be looking for.
Would the Maple Leafs have enough to offer the Penguins?

If the Maple Leafs were to have any chance of landing Malkin they would have to part ways with a minimum of Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly. Truth be told, the Penguins would balk at that trade and likely ask for Phil Kessel as part of any deal.

Would a combination of Kessel, Bozak and Lupul get it done? Probably. But that would be trading three of Toronto’s top-six forwards away, which would seem counter-productive to land one player, albeit a very talented player in a relatively tough position (centre) to fill.

So, to all the Maple Leaf fans that seem to think Pittsburgh would be willing to trade Malkin to Toronto— Keep dreaming, it’s just not gonna happen!

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