There is reportedly a growing feeling within the NHL that star forward Evgeni Malkin's tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins is nearing its conclusion.
According to Josh Yohe of The Athletic, multiple NHL agents have said they believe it is "unlikely" Malkin will re-sign with the Pens, and some within the Penguins organization have reportedly expressed the same sentiment.
Malkin has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Penguins, but he is set to become a free agent when the market officially opens on July 13.
Since going No. 2 overall to the Penguins in the 2004 draft, Malkin has carved out a Hall of Fame career, racking up countless accolades.
The 35-year-old is a seven-time All-Star, two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer and one-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner as NHL MVP. He also won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2007 as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.
Malkin has been a playoff stalwart as well, leading the Pens to three Stanley Cup wins and taking the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009 as postseason MVP.
In 981 career regular-season games, Malkin has recorded 444 goals and 702 assists for 1,146 points, plus he has another 67 goals and 113 assists for 180 points in 177 playoff contests.
Despite being part of a storied franchise that has showcased Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and longtime teammate Sidney Crosby, Malkin is at or near the top of most major offensive categories in Penguins history.
He ranks second in regular-season games played, third in goals, third in assists and third in points. Malkin is also second in career playoff points behind only Crosby.
Malkin and Crosby have long formed one of the most productive, successful superstar duos in NHL history, as Malkin has spent his entire 16-year NHL career as Crosby's teammate.
The 6'3" Russian has reached the 100-point mark in a season three times, and while his production in recent years hasn't quite reached the level it did earlier in his career, he has averaged more than a point per game in 10 of the past 11 seasons.
That includes this past season when he racked up 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points in 41 games after his campaign got off to a late start due to injury.
It is somewhat difficult to envision Malkin in another uniform, but his free agency comes at a difficult time for the Pens, since they have several key free agents to consider.
In addition to Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang, goalie Casey DeSmith and forwards Rickard Rakell and Evan Rodrigues are all set to hit the open market.
Malkin is the most integral player among them, but given how much the Penguins have invested in Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust, re-signing one of the franchise's all-time greats may not be in the cards.