NHL trade rumors: Evgeni Malkin forced Penguins to trade him or Phil Kessel

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 06: Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Phil Kessel (81) and Pittsburgh Penguins Center Evgeni Malkin (71) share a laugh during a break in the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators on April 6, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Penguins shutout the Senators in a 4-0 win. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 06: Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Phil Kessel (81) and Pittsburgh Penguins Center Evgeni Malkin (71) share a laugh during a break in the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators on April 6, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Penguins shutout the Senators in a 4-0 win. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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According to the latest NHL trade rumors, Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin told the team to trade either him or veteran Phil Kessel.

Even though he was instrumental in helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, Phil Kessel had long worn out his welcome in the Steel City. According to the latest NHL trade rumors, team ownership, coaches and management were convinced that “Kessel had to go for Evgeni Malkin to stay.”

Rossi also outlined that Malkin “grew tired of feeling caught between the ongoing” feud between Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan.

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There were ongoing rumors throughout the past year that the Penguins were shopping Kessel. Finally, general manager Jim Rutherford agreed to send Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

Many fans and pundits had a difficult time wondering why the Penguins seemed so insistent on trading Kessel. He had a trio of 70-point seasons (including a career-high 92 in 2017-18), and totaled 110 goals and 303 points in 328 games with the Pens.

Well, we may finally understand now why Rutherford decided to trade the perennial All-Star for a fairly average return with the team’s Stanley Cup window rapidly closing. It may have simply been a demand from Malkin.

Citing sources, Rossi also said the 33-year-old Malkin also “requested a trade if” the All-Star sniper returned. Malkin denied the speculation.

If this is true, it’s no surprise that the Penguins chose ‘Geno’ over Kessel. The former has been a bigger part of this team’s success, and he has stronger ties to the  — having spent each of his 13 seasons here compared to Kessel lasting just four years in Pittsburgh.

Trading Malkin most certainly wouldn’t have sat well with Sidney Crosby. This is the most dynamic duo of the 21st century, and the Penguins have built their team entirely around these two stars. Not to mention, Malkin is undoubtedly the more valuable player than Kessel.

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In trading Kessel, Penguins owners and management have made it clear that they want Malkin to finish out his career in the Steel City — right where it started. With three Stanley Cup rings, one Conn Smythe, a Hart Trophy and two scoring titles to his name, there’s simply no way the Penguins can even think about letting a player of Malkin’s caliber go.