Pens to announce Malkin extension

| Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Penguins went 10 hours past the start of the free-agent signing period - noon Tuesday - without learning if right wing Marian Hossa or defenseman Brooks Orpik would continue their NHL careers in Pittsburgh.

Chances are not one team official was even slightly frustrated with that development.

Nothing could deflate the Penguins yesterday, not after they finalized terms on a desired multi-year contract extension with representatives for superstar center Evgeni Malkin.

Neither the Penguins nor Malkin's agent, JP Barry, confirmed a deal was in place, but an announcement is expected this week.

Malkin's extension will pay him $8.7 million annually over five years starting with the 2009-10 season. The deal is a near-carbon copy of the extension signed last summer by teammate Sidney Crosby.

The significance of Malkin's extension is paramount to the Penguins' hope for keeping together a young core that consists of him, Crosby, center Jordan Staal, defenseman Ryan Whitney and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

The oldest player of that group, Whitney, is 25.

Fleury, 23, is slated for an arbitration hearing no sooner than July 20. However, talks between his camp and Penguins general manager Ray Shero continue to progress concerning a long-term contract.

Crosby, already an individual scoring champion and league MVP at 20, and Malkin, an MVP finalist at 21 this past season, would play together four seasons at a combined salary-cap hit of $17.4 million from 2009-10 to 2012-13 - the final season of Crosby's deal.

The current team payroll upper limit stands at $56.7 million. It has increased each year since the NHL returned from a lockout in 2005.

The most a player can earn according to the collective bargaining agreement is 20 percent of the upper limit during the year he signs a contract. The individual max is at $11.34 million.

Malkin is on vacation in his native Russia and could not be reached for comment.

He told the Tribune-Review last month that he was "an easy guy to deal with."

Now he is set to follow Crosby's lead and provide the Penguins with a hometown discount on a long-term deal.

The Penguins entered yesterday optimistic Hossa might join Malkin on that line.

Hossa, a star two-way player acquired Feb. 26 in a splashy deadline-day deal with Atlanta, had plenty of suitors yesterday.

By night's end, Boston appeared to move in another direction by signing forward Michael Ryder, leaving Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver and the Penguins still in the hunt.

The Bruins had been considered the leading contender to pluck him from the Penguins, whose standing offer is believed to have been worth slightly more than $7 million annually over five years.

Shero said last month he thought they were atop Hossa's list of preferred employers.

The Penguins did not increase their offer to Hossa yesterday.

Shero, who has never detailed the offer, did not wait on Hossa's decision. He was engaged in talks with several free-agent forwards yesterday - including a surprise phone call to representatives for New York Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Penguins.

Jagr is a former Penguins captain and their second all-time leading scorer. He is represented by Pat Brisson, who is also Crosby's agent.

Brisson had no comment.

Shero never offered a contract to Jagr, whose stated desire is to stay with the Rangers.

Orpik, a respected leader in the Penguins' dressing room and their most physical defenseman, fielded several favorable offers from other teams. The Penguins' last offer - believed to be a five-year deal worth more than $3 million annually - did not result in an agreement.

Orpik's agent, Lewis Gross, did not return calls.

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