The Dallas Stars have been aggressive in re-tooling the franchise both on and off the ice this season, essentially hitting the reset button for the team heading into the 2013 season. Stars GM Jim Nill has been credited with not wasting time in making moves to better improve the team, both in the short and the long term, and after four years of frustration it's certainly been interesting to see the Stars action putting words into action.
Now comes an oddly-timed story that suggests the Dallas Stars and Nill were more aggressive than we could ever have imagined. Talking to the Russian website SovSport, the father of Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin seems to suggest that the Stars made an offer to the top player in the NHL prior to his signing an eight-year, $76 million contract extension with the Penguins this summer:
Here is what is generally being used as the translation of the quotes, via SI.com:
"You know, Dallas offered him a greater deal than the Pittsburgh. And he said, ‘No, I do not want to go there.' The Stars had signed Sergei Gonchar. His best friend is out there playing. Why not agree?
"And Geno said he wasn't torn about not going to Dallas. He didn't want to change houses. ‘I'm used to Pittsburgh, the city and the team,' he said."
Update: Natasha over at Pensburgh decided to translate the quotes herself, with the help of her husband and father-in-law, in order to make sure the translations that we're referring to are accurate. Here's the relative portion of the conversation, which comes after Malkin's father revealed that negotiations weren't going very well and that a deal was reached at the very last second before he left for Russia:
Q: So could Malkin have gone to a different team?
A: You know, Dallas was offering my son an even bigger contract than Pittsburgh, and Zhenya responded "No, I don't want to go there." They signed Sergei Gonchar. His best friend is playing there. Why not take it?
Zhenya said "If at some point things don't work out with the Penuins and I have to leave, I'd rather go to the New York Rangers or Montreal Canadiens. There are several clubs. But I'm not rushing to Dallas. And I wouldn't like the change of moving my house and going somewhere else. I got used to Pittsburgh, the city and the team."
My son's nature is such that he doesn't like to hop from place to place. As a father, I think, if the player - a big star, often spends his entire career with the same NHL team. Same as Datsyuk, Crosby, Ovechkin. There are many examples. And if you start running then you can't stop. What good is that?
Natasha states that the interviewer's questions were a bit leading, but Malkin's father certainly brings up Dallas all on his own. As I stated below, I think the most logical explanation for this situation is that the Stars inquired about a trade which would have then involved a contract extension. Perhaps this is why Pittsburgh suddenly decided to meet Malkin's contract demands, but once again -- that's just pure speculation and nothing else. End Update.
There has to be something more to this story, or something has been lost in translation somewhere, because it is highly doubtful that the Dallas Stars would even come close to carrying through what Malkin's father is suggesting. Malkin's extension doesn't begin until 2014 and there was never a time when he wasn't under contract to Pittsburgh -- there was never any legal window in which the Stars could make a legal offer of any kind to Malkin without being nabbed for tampering.
We have reached out to the Dallas Stars regarding this story and are waiting on a response.
This is a very serious suggestion, and one that seems even more doubtful when you consider the high profile of a player like Malkin. It's why even speculating about what happened is a dangerous game, as there are undoubtedly more facts surrounding this situation that we're certainly not going to get through a translated quote from the father of a NHL player. This story is starting to spread, however, and the "tampering" word is being mentioned in nearly every headline -- so, there will obviously have to be some follow up.
Now, there's a good chance that Malkin's father got wind of some sort of discussion happening behind the scenes and doesn't fully understand the situation. It could be the Stars had discussed the possibility of a trade with the Penguins for Malkin, which would then include a new contract -- which was met with the response we're given above, that Malkin doesn't want to leave Pittsburgh even for a bigger contract.
That the Stars would go straight to Malkin about a contract offer just doesn't make any sense, especially since Malkin has another year remaining on his original contract with Pittsburgh. This is a story that is going to get a lot of traction because it has the potential to be sensational, but right now the logic of the situation just doesn't hold up.
The Dallas Stars would have to know that any sort of tampering would be met with a harsh response from the league, and tampering with the best player in the NHL just doesn't seem to be the sort of illogical decision that Jim Nill would make. There's way too much risk involved and Malkin wouldn't have been available until after this season; it seems the most plausible explanation would be where a trade was possibly discussed and nothing more than that.
We'll update this story when the Stars issue a response.