Bryan Rust, Kris Letang and Casey DeSmith all received contract extensions from the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, but star center Evgeni Malkin has yet to work out a deal with the franchise and appears headed toward free agency next week.
Close friends and teammates of Malkin told The Athletic's Rob Rossi that the veteran is "devastated" by the lack of progress on an extension to return to the Penguins.
"He wants to play only in Pittsburgh," one of Malkin's friends told Rossi. "He doesn't understand how it's at this point with him not being signed. He's said, 'They don't think I'm a good player—why?'"
A current teammate of Malkin added: "It bothers me how this is happening. It's a bad look. From what I know of what's happened, Geno deserves better."
The situation has gotten to the point where Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has visited Malkin at his home in South Florida.
"Sid didn't go to convince Malkin to sign," a source told Rossi. "He wanted to check on his friend. He was worried about how hard this is on Geno with Geno not feeling wanted anymore."
Malkin has mentioned his desire to remain in Pittsburgh in the past, telling reporters in May that he "loves" the city and the fans.
"If this team wants new blood and young guys and they say to me to move on, we will see. ... I believe in my agent and I trust him. I want to stay here. I want to play in the NHL. ... I hope I stay here. I hope I retire here," Malkin said.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has also mentioned that he hopes to keep Malkin "as a Pittsburgh Penguin for the rest of his career," which does suggest the franchise wants him back.
Hextall also told reporters Friday that he is hoping to make a trade to free up some cap space to re-sign Malkin. The team is projected to have $15.3 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, but it also needs some of that money to re-sign other players, such as Danton Heinen, Kasperi Kapanen and Rickard Rakell.
Freeing up some more cap space will allow the Penguins to retain Malkin while also hopefully retaining some other impact players.
Pittsburgh's latest offer to Malkin was a three-year, $18 million deal, according to Rossi. Negotiations between the two sides have reportedly stalled over length of the contract, not average annual value.
Malkin has spent his entire 16-year career with the Penguins, who selected him second overall in the 2004 NHL draft. He made his debut during the 2005-06 campaign and has gone on to tally 444 goals and 702 assists for 1,146 points in 981 games.
The 35-year-old has also been a significant playoff performer for the Pens, notching 67 goals and 113 assists for 180 points in 177 games.
Malkin has won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins and has also won the Ted Lindsay Award, Art Ross Trophy (twice) and Hart Memorial Trophy.
If he's unable to agree to terms to return to Pittsburgh, one of the NHL's other 31 teams is going to get very lucky and land arguably the best center on the market.