Making the Case: Malkin for Thornton

It is Monday June 19th 2015. The World Championships have long since concluded (congratulations Sweden) and the Stanley Cup has been won (congratulations St Louis). Attention now turns to the draft – that pivotal day where clubs short and long term fortunes can so quickly change.

Pittsburgh General Manager Pierre McGuire picks up the phone to new Sharks supremo Tim Burke, recently promoted from Director of Scouting. A little small talk is made – how the Flyers put their stick boy in net on the last day of the regular season, ensuring an Ottawa victory and eliminating the Penguins from the play-offs, what to make of Brent Burns’ new hair-do, and how much fun guys should have out there. Just shooting the breeze really.

Then it gets serious. Trades are discussed.

Two teams in need of a shake up, seeing what each can do for the other – depth players are discussed, playing their part of deckchairs aboard these two Titanic franchises. Finally one of the men decides cosmetic changes won’t alter their respective ships course – and they go big, they go bold.

They bring up Evgeni Malkin and Joe Thornton…

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In terms of blockbuster trades, it would be the biggest and boldest we’ve seen in the cap era. Two huge stars whose very names alone make the very suggestion of a swap seem crazy.

And undoubtedly it would be a gamble for both clubs – but these teams need major a kick if they are to get back on track.

Thornton alone is unlikely to prize Malkin from Pittsburgh. He’s older (35 to Malkin’s 28), only contracted through to the summer of 2017 and is a less prolific scorer than the Russian.

But ‘Jumbo Joe’ does remain one of the games elite play makers. Physically dominant with pillow soft hands, he would be first line centre on at least 25 other NHL teams; Thornton is the type of player that can help Pittsburgh maintain their fearsome 1-2 punch at centre.

He also earns $2.75m less than Malkin and hasn’t missed more than a handful of games since 2002 – and for the cap strapped and injury ravaged Pens, that has to be appealing.

Malkin for his part is one of the world’s best players – perhaps top 5, at least top 10. Selected 2nd overall at the 2004 draft, the Magnitogorsk native has accumulated 584 points in 585 games for Pittsburgh – winning a Stanley Cup, the Calder Trophy, a Conn Smythe, a Hart Trophy and two Art Ross titles along the way.

Signed through to 2022 (when he’ll be 35), Malkin could/would be the ‘go to guy’ for almost any team in the NHL that doesn’t have either Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews (or maybe Patrice Bergeron) in its line up. But Malkin has also missed at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons, and hasn’t completed a full schedule since 2009.

Again, despite the injuries, Malkin alone is still worth more than Thornton in outright terms. But San Jose also has something Pittsburgh might covet – a 1st round pick. An attractive asset for the Sharks to package up in order to grease the wheels.

The Pens traded their pick to Edmonton as part of the deal that brought David Perron to Pennsylvania – San Jose still has their’s.

A shot at someone like Lawson Crouse, or perhaps a Mitch Marner or Noah Hanifin should they slide, would clearly appeal to Pittsburgh; but would the Sharks part with a top 14 pick in a deep draft?

By the theoretical date we’re using (June 19th), the draft lottery will have been and gone; the selection order will be set. And if San Jose is still picking somewhere between 10th and 14th (as is currently likely), they might be willing to part with the pick to add a highly skilled 28-year old to a group who still has a window of opportunity open to them.

Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns are 30, Logan Couture is 26. Add Malkin to the mix, alongside 21-year old Tomas Hertl, and the idea San Jose are contenders again, at least for a couple more seasons, is not so wild.

Shifting Thornton also, partly, helps the Sharks ‘cultural’ issues – a strong fringe benefit for a team desperate to change its fortunes.

These are two clubs who hitched their wagon to certain individuals – and neither has tangible success (i.e. a Cup) to show for it since doing so.

But both San Jose and Pittsburgh remain attractive destinations for players of all shapes and sizes – and could offer much to the respective players being discussed here.

Malkin has a No Movement Clause, with reporter Rob Rossi stating there are only around half a dozen teams he’d even consider waiving it to go to on yesterday’s Marek vs Wyshynski podcast.

San Jose is in California (sunshine, happiness and rainbows etc), has a roster capable of challenging for a Cup and generally plays an exciting brand of hockey under a well respected coach (who should 100% still be there next season). That’s a pretty tidy package to dangle in front of Malkin if you are asking him to waive that NMC.

On Thornton’s part, he’d move to a team who could also be considered challengers again – if they plug some holes, which the cap relief Thornton would bring helps with – and he’ll get to play with the best player in the game today.

It’s wild, it’s bold and the Sharks would need to consider what else they’d be willing to part with – Thornton is the centre piece to their side of the deal, not the whole. But it’s a ‘high risk, high reward’ sort of deal for both franchises, and one that doesn’t involve trading a star to a Conference rival…

If Pittsburgh do miss the post season this year, changes are likely and it seems fair to suggest (for anyone not wearing #87) ‘all bets are off’ this summer – while the Sharks own post mortem has already begun.

If these two organisations want to make a bold respond to this seasons failures, there may not be a better way for each to change it up and make a serious statement of intent than pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal.


About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on April 9, 2015, in Hockey, NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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