Malkin and Gonchar (right) in Pittsburgh.
But according to his father, Vladimir, the Penguins weren't the only team interested in signing him this offseason. He explained in a recent interview with Russian website SovSport (via Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo! Sports):
Russian parents and interviews. Geno's dad tells SovSport Dallas offered Malkin a bigger contract than the #Pens, but he stayed.— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) August 12, 2013
More from Geno's dad: "Son said 'If I were ever to leave Pittsburgh, I would go to the Rangers or the Canadiens.'" (Via SovSport)— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) August 12, 2013
This has the potential to become a tampering case, because Malkin is under contract with Pittsburgh. Signed players are not permitted to negotiate contracts with other teams prior to reaching free agency.
One thing we know for sure is that the NHL doesn't hold back when it punishes teams that are found guilty of tampering. If the Stars are found guilty, which seems to have a slim-to-none chance of happening right now, the penalties could be severe.
One of the most high-profile tampering cases in NHL history involved the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues and star defenseman Scott Stevens. St. Louis was forced to pay a heavy price for tampering with Stevens 19 years ago.
Per Steve Popper of the New York Times (January, 1999):
More than four years after the fact, the efforts of the Devils and the National Hockey League resulted in a settlement that awarded the Devils a record cash payment of more than $1.4 million from the Blues and their choice of one of the Blues' first-round picks in the next five years of the entry draft.
As for Malkin's case, it's difficult to understand why the Stars would offer him a contract an entire year before he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
His old deal with Pittsburgh has another season left on it, and the eight-year, $76 million contract extension that he signed following last year's playoffs doesn't begin until the 2014-15 season.
One explanation is that the Stars didn't think Malkin would reach the free-agent market and wanted to show their interest before he made the decision to re-sign in Pittsburgh, but that's only speculation on my part.
Another possible scenario is that the Penguins and Stars were talking about a trade involving Malkin, and Dallas wanted to re-sign him to a gigantic contract if a deal was made. But there's no report of these teams discussing a trade centered around the Russian superstar at any time.
Other than the interview between Malkin's father and SovSport, there isn't any other information on this story. At this point, there are more questions than answers, and unfortunately, we may never know all of the details.
It will be interesting to see if anything more comes of this situation. Malkin has re-signed in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future, and after a few summer trades, the Stars no longer have a pressing need for additional depth and skill at center.
But it would be surprising if the NHL didn't at least make an effort to see if there's a legitimate case of tampering here. These types of situations shouldn't be ignored, even if there doesn't appear to be much of an issue.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. All salary information via CapGeek.