5 Reasons Penguins Should Be Worried About Evgeni Malkin Playing in Russia

John DegrooteCorrespondent IISeptember 14, 2012

5 Reasons Penguins Should Be Worried About Evgeni Malkin Playing in Russia

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    Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin will most likely be playing in Russia if the looming NHL lockout comes to pass.

    According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Malkin has agreed to a deal with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League:

    Reports out of Russia say that Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has agreed to a contract to play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League if the start of the 2012-13 NHL season is delayed by a lockout.

    While the superstar center may embrace and thrive during the opportunity to play for his hometown team, there are some reasons that the Penguins should be worried about Geno playing on foreign ice during a lockout.

Injury

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    The most obvious reason the Penguins should be concerned is that Malkin could suffer an injury that hampers his NHL career.

    Malkin has not played a complete NHL season in over three years. Malkin played 67 games in 2009-10, 43 in the 2010-11 season and 75 last year.

    Every time a player steps on the ice there is risk for injury, but if he gets injured playing overseas, it would lead to outrage in Pittsburgh.

    With the problems that the Pens other superstar, Sidney Crosby, has had with concussions, Malkin sustaining a serious injury could lead to big problems down the road for the team.

Bad PR

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    Not only the Penguins, but the entire NHL will feel PR backlash from the lockout.

    The league has spent the time since it lost an entire year to a lockout in 2004-05 redefining itself. This would set them back tremendously.

    The NHL may not only lose some of their star players to foreign leagues during the lockout, but also sponsors and fans.

    In a Yahoo! Sports interview, AJ Maestas, president of Chicago-based Navigate Research, says the NHL would have a hard time gaining new fans and keeping casual ones if the lockout were to happen:

    Not only would another lockout become a major challenge to win more fans, I believe the NHL would lose casual fans and not regain them for an extended period of time. Our research after the last lockout (2004-05) showed the passionate fans quickly returned to the arena but a long lag time for casual fans to return to attending games and watching on TV. Given that TV ratings are one of the greatest challenges for the NHL, this is not good.

    Hockey fans are already few and far between in the United States. It's hard to say if the NHL could ever get back on track after another extended lockout.

Bad Habits

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    Any elite player playing in lower level leagues are bound to pick up bad habits caused by laziness.

    How did they get so good in the first place? Playing in the top leagues.

    If Malkin is head and shoulders above his opposition, he will get away with things that he can't in the NHL.

    Don't get me wrong—the KHL is a solid league. But we are talking about Evgeni Malkin.

    Malkin is in the conversation for the NHL's best player, so there is no question he would be the best in the KHL.

    Because of his dominance, Malkin may pick up little, but significant bad habits that may take some time to shake after he returns to the NHL.

He Likes It, Too Much

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    The KHL only wants the best NHL players to play for their teams. According to TSN, the league has even devised a list of what kind of resumes players who hope to play in the KHL must have.

    Players must fulfill one of the following requirements:

    • The player has played no fewer than 150 games in the NHL over the last three seasons.
    • Has experience of playing in the KHL.
    • Represented his country at one of the last two IIHF World Championships, World Junior Championships or the Olympics.
    • Is a Stanley Cup winner, a Stanley Cup finalist, or a winner of one of the individual prizes awarded by the NHL at the close of their season.

    Malkin meets all those requirements, and would be the league's top talent.

    Geno is sure to make plenty of money playing for the Metallurg Magnitogors, probably upwards of a million or more per week, and would be treated like a king.

    Malkin may also be reunited with his close friend, Sergei Gonchar. Malkin moved in with Gonchar when he joined the Penguins in 2006 and dedicated his Hart Trophy to the veteran defenseman, who spent the past two seasons with the Senators.

    There is a possibility, albeit a very tiny one, that Malkin likes playing in the KHL too much, and stays there even after the lockout is over.

    Playing in front of family and friends, beside his best friend and getting a healthy paycheck? Sounds pretty tempting to me.

Luring Crosby

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    Malkin has not said anything to make us think that Sidney Crosby has been in contact with Russian teams, but he is almost certain that if the lockout goes on for an extended period of time, Crosby will be joining him in the KHL.

    According to Yahoo.com Malkin said:

    I think he won't go to the KHL right away. He will see how the situation develops. I see that the league and the PA have started to come closer. Perhaps the lockout won't continue for the entire year. That's why a lot of North American players won't go to Europe until the very last moment. A lot of them are a bit afraid of Russia. But the best hockey league in the world after the NHL is there.

    If there is injury concern for Malkin, there is even more for Crosby. Crosby has only played 63 games the past two NHL seasons, and has been plagued by lingering concussion issues.

    Crosby will think long and hard about what he will do if the league is indeed locked out, but the KHL is a real possibility. The addition of having a familiar face nearby in Malkin may help make the decision easier for Crosby.

    Playing in Russia would surely keep his skills sharp, but is it worth the risk? It is hard to think the Penguins would be comfortable with their top two players playing overseas.

     

    How do you feel about the possibility of the Penguins superstar playing in Russia? Let us know in the comments below.