The two-time Art Ross Trophy winner would reportedly not be opposed to a trade away from the club with which he has spent his entire career, league sources told Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.
"When you get knocked out of the playoffs and the day after your president (and CEO David Morehouse) comes out and says, 'Look, we’re not firing Mike Johnston, we’re not firing Jim Rutherford, we’re not trading Evgeni Malkin, and we’re not trading Sidney Crosby,'" Friedman told Sportsnet 960 on Friday.
"Now I can understand you coming out and saying the first two, but why would you need to say the next two? Why do you have to tell everybody we're not trading Malkin or Crosby? And that's when the sale rumors went wild."
Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle confirmed Wednesday they will explore options regarding the potential sale of the franchise.
"Are the Pittsburgh Penguins a more valuable team to buy with Crosby and Malkin in the lineup or out of the lineup?" Friedman said. "And I think the answer is 'b'. So that's when everybody started to say, 'Okay, something is going on here.'
"They're not trading Crosby, but I will tell you this. There have been rumors about Malkin's happiness," Friedman said. "About whether or not he wants to stay, and I think (Morehouse's comments were) directed exactly at them.
"I have no idea if the Penguins are going to trade Malkin. I would suspect no until a sale gets done. But I can tell you this – there are people around the league who have been saying they've been hearing rumors that Malkin is not happy and would welcome a change of scenery."
Friedman then reiterated that any deal involving Malkin is unlikely while the team remains on the market.
Malkin notched 70 points in 69 games, but he was held pointless over the last 10 contests including the Penguins' first-round series loss to the New York Rangers in five games.
He missed All-Star weekend with an undisclosed injury, then sat out for two weeks in March with a lower-body ailment. Crosby confirmed Malkin was battling an injury in April prior to the Penguins' elimination
Malkin has 702 points in 587 regular-season games for the Penguins over nine seasons, adding 111 points in 101 playoff contests.
He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. He won Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's MVP in 2012.
- With h/t to Chris Nichols