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Malkin set to take Pens-friendly extension

| Saturday, June 21, 2008

OTTAWA -- Sidney Crosby cracked the door open last July.

Evgeni Malkin wants to rip it from its hinges next month to allow teammates - specifically impending unrestricted free agent Marian Hossa - a clear path toward long-term futures with the Penguins.

Malkin's agent, JP Barry, said Friday his client would follow the precedent set by Crosby last summer and sign a long-term extension at less than his presumed market value to provide the Penguins salary cap space necessary to remain a Stanley Cup contender.

"He wants to stay in Pittsburgh and keep as many of these players together and try and make a run next year," Barry said prior to the first round of the NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place.

Barry added that Malkin is optimistic the Penguins can keep Hossa, defenseman Brooks Orpik, also a potential unrestricted free agent, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

If that scenario does not shake out, Barry said Malkin would be upset.

"He would join the line," Barry said. "I'm sure Crosby would be upset. I'm sure Sergei Gonchar would be upset. He's intensely interested in finding out what is going with negotiations, because he wants them to keep as many guys as possible."

Malkin will enter the final season of his three-year, entry-level deal. He is eligible to become a restricted free agent July 1, 2009.

That option would provide him an opportunity to sign an offer sheet from another team, and consensus around the league is Malkin would receive an offer of the maximum allowable annual salary - 20 percent of the league's overall cap. The salary cap is expected to be near $54 million next season.

According to the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Penguins cannot sign Malkin to an extension before July 1.

Barry said an extension should be "done the first or second week of July." He characterized negotiations with Penguins general manager Ray Shero as good and said the parties have a "framework (they're) working toward."

That framework, Barry said, is similar to the extension signed by Crosby last summer - $43.5 million over five years.

Malkin told the Tribune-Review at the NHL Awards Show in Toronto last week he had no desire to top Crosby's $8.7 million annual salary.

Several of Malkin's teammates told the Tribune-Review recently he confided to them prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs that he would give the Penguins a discount to help create salary-cap space.

"The framework of these negotiations has been primarily driven by Evgeni's wishes," Barry said. "He's the one that set the term, discussed the dollar, and he's thought about it for a couple of months - what's going to be right for (him) and the team and trying to keep as many people together as possible."

Barry added that Malkin has no interest in returning to his native Russia and playing in a startup league. A Toronto Star report yesterday suggested Malkin could receive offers of near $12 million annually to join a club from that league.

"That's not what he's interested in doing," said Barry, who added that he hoped for assurances from the Penguins that Malkin would not be traded if he signed an extension.

Malkin is not eligible for a no-trade clause until he would become an unrestricted free agent. A five-year extension would buy out his first year of free-agent eligibility.

"The purpose is not to negotiate a deal to help Pittsburgh and not be in Pittsburgh," Barry said.

Hossa is among 12 players from the Penguins' Stanley Cup final roster who can become unrestricted free agents July 1.

Shero said he is "not optimistic and not pessimistic" about keeping Hossa.

"We'll see what happens," Shero said regarding Hossa, who is represented by Ritch Winter - a reputably tough negotiator known to urge his players to chase the money.

Hossa, who earned $7 million this past season, has said he would take less than his market value to play on a good team.

Shero said the Penguins, who came within two wins of a championship this past season, have "worked the numbers" to determine how they can fit long-term deals for Malkin and Hossa under the cap.

Hossa spent the past few weeks on vacation in the Bahamas. The Penguins will present him with a formal offer upon his return.

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