By JOHN WAWROW, DAVE CAMPBELL and STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Sports Writers
Evgeni Malkin is returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins after all, sticking around on the eve of free agency hours after the goalie carousel kept spinning around the NHL.
Malkin late Tuesday night signed a $24.4 million, four-year deal that counts $6.1 million against the salary cap through 2026. He had as recently as Monday told the team he was testing the market.
“Evgeni is a generational talent who will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NHL history,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “His hockey resume and individual accomplishments speak volumes about him as a player, and we are thrilled to watch him continue his remarkable legacy in Pittsburgh.”
Before Malkin stole the headlines by re-signing, the Minnesota Wild added another shift to the NHL’s offseason goalie shuffle when they traded Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators for Filip Gustavsson.
The Senators had an opening after dealing Matt Murray to Toronto. The Wild intended to bring back Talbot in the same timeshare with Marc-Andre Fleury they used down the stretch on the way to the best regular-season record in franchise history, but general manager Bill Guerin changed his mind five days after re-signing Fleury.
“Sometimes you just know in your gut that things might not work out, and somebody might not be happy. I don’t want a player to be like that either, and sometimes it’s best to just move on,” Guerin said. “There was no drama. We don’t want to create drama.”
The 37-year-old Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup winner along side Malkin in Pittsburgh, started all but one of Minnesota’s playoff games in the first-round loss to St. Louis. Talbot didn’t hide his disappointment about having to wait until the elimination game to see the ice in that series.
Guerin said Talbot did not directly request a trade.
“Cam is a wonderful guy. He’s a big part of where our culture is today, and it’s not that he would have been a problem,” Guerin said. “It’s just, you know, sometimes there’s a little awkwardness and that’s not always the best thing.”
Talbot, who has a $3.67 million salary-cap hit on the final year of the contract he signed with the Wild in 2020, will slide in next to Anton Forsberg in Ottawa’s net. The 35-year-old Talbot went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular-season starts.
With Fleury in the fold on a two-year, $7 million contract, Gustavsson will be the clear No. 2 goalie for Minnesota while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt develops in the AHL. The swap also netted almost $3 million in cap space for the strapped-for-space Wild.
The 24-year-old Gustavsson mostly struggled through 18 games with the Senators last season, going 5-12-1 with a 3.55 goals-against average. He was a 2016 second-round draft pick by Pittsburgh, when Guerin was in the front office there.
Also Tuesday, the Philadelphia Flyers placed forward Oskar Lindblom on waivers with the intent of buying out the final year of the 25-year-old cancer survivor’s contract.
General manager Chuck Fletcher called it a “very difficult decision” to free up salary-cap space by cutting a player who recovered from being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. The Flyers will donate $100,000 in Lindblom’s name to a Philadelphia organization that supports families impacted by cancer.
“No one can question the desire, will and strength to overcome all that Oskar has been through off the ice in order to return to the game he loves,” Fletcher said in a statement released by the team. “Oskar’s commitment to his teammates and impact in our room has been immeasurable. He is truly an inspiration to us all and he will always remain a special part of the Philadelphia Flyers family. We wish him all the best as he continues his NHL career.”
Unless claimed, Lindblom will become an unrestricted free agent once the NHL’s signing period opens Wednesday. He was entering the final season of a three-year contract, which counted $3 million against Philadelphia’s salary cap.
Lindblom is from Sweden and was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. He spent five seasons in Philadelphia.
He was diagnosed with cancer in December 2019 and missed the remainder of the season before returning to play Games 6 and 7 in the Flyers’ second-round series loss to the New York Islanders in August, when the Eastern Conference playoffs were played in Toronto due to COVID-19.
Lindblom returned the following season, scoring eight goals and 14 points in 50 games and winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is presented to a player who best embodies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
Overall, Lindblom has 50 goals and 97 points in 263 career games.
Ottawa defenseman Michael Del Zotto, New Jersey forward Janne Kuokkanen and San Jose forward Rudolfs Balcers also were placed on waivers for the purpose to buy out the final year of their contracts.
— The Buffalo Sabres re-signed pending unrestricted free agent forward Vinnie Hinostroza to a one-year contract worth $1.7 million. The seventh-year player returns for a second year in Buffalo after scoring 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games last season.
— Veteran defenseman Alexander Edler is staying in Los Angeles after signing a one-year contract worth $750,000. The 36-year-old Edler had three goals and 19 points in 41 games in his first year with the Kings last season, while missing 36 games with a broken ankle.
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.
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