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Penguins negotiating with Gonchar

Talks have turned into negotiations between the Penguins and representatives for top defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

General manager Ray Shero and agent JP Barry discussed contract terms and numbers Saturday, and negotiations are expected to resume Monday.

Specifics of the negotiations are not known. The respective policies of Shero and Barry are not to divulge details of contract negotiations, and each declined comment.

Gonchar, 36, has scored 53 goals and recorded 259 points in 322 regular-season games since signing a five-year contract worth $25 million with the Penguins in July 2005. He was the club's No. 1 defenseman and power-play quarterback.

He is seeking a multi-year deal, and despite publicly stating his desire to remain with the Penguins, Gonchar has not expressed a willingness to take a significant salary reduction - if any at all.

Reaching a resolution with Gonchar is the club's top offseason priority. He is one of eight players eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. Gonchar is likely to be among the most attractive defensemen among a free-agent class considered strongest on the blue line.

The Penguins, committed to spending to the salary cap again next season, have not established a deadline to potentially sign Gonchar. The option of trading him to another club before July 1 is complicated by his no-trade clause.

Movement on possible new deals for left wing Matt Cooke, veteran right wing Bill Guerin and defenseman Mark Eaton is unlikely until the Penguins determine Gonchar's status.

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