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Pens negotiations advancing with Cooke, Dupuis

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:45 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Matt Cooke during practice, Monday, May 13, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
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The Penguins' Pascal Dupuis (left) collides with the Jets' Grant Clitsome during the first period Jan. 25, 2013.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger Matt Cooke during practice on Monday, May 13, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke have emerged as top priorities for the Penguins.

General manager Ray Shero continued to negotiate with representatives for both wingers Tuesday.

Dupuis and Cooke, each 34, are among seven Penguins players set to become unrestricted free agents July 5.

Shero is trying to prevent both players from hitting the market.

Length of a deal is more important to Cooke than money, and he was told by the Penguins during the regular season a three-year contract was unlikely.

Also, as is the case with Dupuis, Cooke seeks a modified movement clause that would give him some control over where the Penguins could trade him.

“There is mutual interest by both parties to strike a deal, and we are reviewing some concepts to keep Matt in Pittsburgh,” agent Pat Morris said.

Cooke counted $1.8 million against the salary cap on his last contract. His signing, in June 2010, marked the only time Shero has given a player 30 or older a deal of more than two years.

Dupuis counted $1.5 million against the cap on his last contract. He has emerged as captain Sidney Crosby's preferred top-line right winger, scoring 45 goals the past two seasons.

Dupuis is projected to command a term of at least four years and an annual salary at between $3 million and $4 million as a free agent.

His agent, Allan Walsh, and Shero have been talking since June 17.

Four Penguins players, including forward Harry Zolnierczyk, who was acquired from Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Alex Grant on Monday, are slated to become restricted free agents. The Penguins will retain their rights by extending qualifying offers before the July 2 deadline.

Offers will be extended to right winger Tyler Kennedy, forward Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.

The labor contract places limitations on the qualifying offers. Kennedy would retain his salary ($2 million), while raises would be due to Jeffrey ($660,000) and Bortuzzo ($577,500).

The labor contract also limits term and salary for veteran players such as defenseman Kris Letang, who is set to enter the final year of a contract that counts $3.5 million against the salary cap.

Letang's agent, Kent Hughes, and Shero spoke last Wednesday about a potential new contract for Letang, but parameters for a deal were not discussed.

Talks had not resumed as of Tuesday.

Letang, 26, has not identified term or salary expectations. He has expressed a desire to work out a long-term contract but has also grown increasingly skeptical that the Penguins view him as an elite NHL defenseman.

He led all defensemen in points-per-game last season — the third consecutive year he has increased his production in that category.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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