Evgeni Malkin: How Will Injuries Impact His Pittsburgh Penguins Future?

Alison Myers@AlisonM_110Correspondent IFebruary 5, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a breather during a game against the Minnesota Wild on January 8, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Earlier today, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma announced that Evgeni Malkin suffered a torn ACL and MCL in last night's game against the Buffalo Sabres. He had just missed the last five games with a knee injury and sinus infection and was making his return to the Penguins lineup.

Malkin was injured last night when he collided with Tyler Myers early in the second period. He went into the boards and stayed down on the ice until the trainer could come out and help. He did not return to the game, and initial reports were that he would be evaluated today.

ESPN analyst Pierre LeBrun addressed the Malkin story on his Twitter account:

"Pens say Malkin may seek second opinion in terms of surgery vs. rehab but looks like surgery at this point."
It doesn't even need to be pointed out that Malkin will miss the rest of the season. Everyone who has heard this news has been able to figure that out on their own. 

I feel bad for Geno. He just returned to the lineup after dealing with an injury and an illness, and then he gets hurt again? You have to wonder who in the NHL has a hex on him.

However, I feel we have to think about this in terms more than another bad break or just another typical injury suffered in a long hockey season.

This is the second straight year Malkin’s season has been cut short. Last year, he missed 15 games with shoulder and foot injuries. As a result, he was limited to just 77 points after back-to-back 100 point seasons.

Now, he will finish the year with 37 points in 43 games.

There has been a hot debate among Penguins fans the last year or two whether or not Malkin should be traded.

I am not suggesting that just yet. However, his injury problems are concerning me, and I have to wonder if it will hurt his future with the Penguins.

The Penguins generally do not like to keep injury prone players around. We all remember Sergei Gonchar. He was a part of the Penguins for a long time. He was a power play quarterback and a calming veteran presence who helped the Penguins to two Stanley Cup Finals.

Unfortunately, Gonchar was cut loose last year. He was coming up on his late 30s, and he was aging out of a mostly young Pittsburgh Penguins roster.

But Gonchar's biggest struggles were his injuries. You can’t keep a player around who is getting hurt constantly. It will cost you.

The Penguins agreed, and Gonchar is now playing for the Ottawa Senators.

Malkin does not have to worry about getting older right now, but he should be nervous about how he is becoming a liability.

At this point, Malkin is under contract for three more seasons. He is making $9 million a year until 2013, when he will be paid $7.5 million. Right now, no team is going to want that contract, especially not when it belongs to a player who is proving to be injury prone.

Furthermore, Malkin is missing so much time that his point totals are going to be impacted. Many of us miss the Evgeni Malkin of 2009 who captured the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy.

We didn’t get that Malkin in 2009-10, and we aren’t going to see it this year, either.

Obviously, when Geno is hurt, he can’t put up points. But when he does come back, he is going to take longer to get adjusted to the pace of the game.

Look at Jordan Staal. He missed the first half of the season due to foot surgery and a hand injury. He came back for the Winter Classic, but did not score his first point until January 12 against the Montreal Canadiens. It was his sixth game back in the lineup.

Malkin will now miss the Pens’ remaining 29 games after missing five games. That’s a 34-game absence, and that’s huge in the NHL.

No one knows the exact day Malkin will hit the ice again, but it’s safe to say that it won’t be in any game that counts for a long time.

The more time Malkin misses and will need to get up to game speed again, the less time he’ll be able to spend being the dominant player he was drafted to be.

Evgeni Malkin’s career didn’t end today. But as of right now, the career the Penguins hoped he would have is looking more like a fantasy than a reality.

What do you think?

Is this newest knee injury the latest in what is going to be an injury-filled career for Malkin, or will he come back better than ever?

You can take the poll or let me know in the comments.


Alison Myers is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Bleacher Report. You may reach her at Alison.Myers@mail.com or follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/AlisonM_BR.


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