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Malkin talks to begin next week

Penguins rookies report to training camp Thursday, and if all goes well early next week, Evgeni Malkin should be among them.

"We believe that he is clear to sign at this point. However, we are letting the week go by and (will) deal with it early next week," agent Pat Brisson said via e-mail yesterday.

Contract negotiations between the Penguins and Malkin's agents are not expected to take long. Entry-level salaries are capped at $984,200 under the NHL's collective bargaining agreement.

The 20-year-old Russian phenom and No. 2 overall pick in 2004 will also be eligible to receive bonuses that could total $2.85 million.

Officials from Malkin's former team in Russia, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, have threatened to take the Penguins and the NHL to court if Malkin signs with the Penguins. They have already contacted Alexander Berkovich, a New York lawyer who has previously handled international disputes involving Russian hockey players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday that there had been no direct contact between the NHL and Magnitogorsk, nor was he aware of any current legal proceedings involving the Penguins prospect.

Malkin is planning to live with his 2006 Olympic teammate, Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, to start the season.

Gonchar, who's in Pittsburgh, said yesterday that Malkin was not yet with him but that he "will be here soon." Gonchar didn't say what day he expects Malkin in arrive.

Rookies report to Pittsburgh on Thursday for a meeting. There will be medical testing and ice available Sept. 8, and the first official practice is Sept. 9.

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