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Dupuis, Eaton pleased to stay with with Penguins

| Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Business defined the Penguins' first day of free agency.

Forward Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Mark Eaton cited "unfinished business" as a big reason they plan to play hockey in Pittsburgh for this season and beyond.

Right wing Georges Laraque spoke for several players - specifically, goaltender Ty Conklin and forward Adam Hall - and declared that the business of a salary-capped NHL forced his and their decision to seek employment elsewhere.

"They've got great young players, and they want to keep that together," Laraque said of the Penguins. "I understand that. Everybody should. If they keep that core, it dictates other decisions because there is only so much money under the salary cap."

The Penguins decided to keep Dupuis and Eaton, each of whom signed multi-year contracts Tuesday only hours after the free-agent signing period opened at noon.

Dupuis' deal is for $4.2 million total over three years. Eaton will earn $4 million total over two seasons.

The Penguins also added rugged forward Eric Godard with a three-year contract thought to be worth $2.25 million total.

Laraque said "it (didn't) take a rocket scientist" to see that signing signaled the end of his brief-but-bruising run as the Penguins' checking-line enforcer - and he's OK with that.

"I'm not offended," said Laraque, who earned $1.3 million this past season and remains a free agent. "Hockey is a business. Everybody needs to remember that."

Conklin and Hall had no trouble with the concept.

Barely on the Penguins' radar this time last summer, each player parlayed surprising successful seasons into favorable deals yesterday.

Conklin, who went 18-8-5 with a stellar .923 save percentage over 33 appearances after an early December promotion from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, signed a one-year contract worth $750,000 with the Detroit Red Wings.

Hall, a valuable checking-line forward and penalty killer after earning a roster spot in training camp, inked a three-year deal worth $1.8 million with Tampa Bay.

Dupuis, acquired from Atlanta on Feb. 26 as part of the blockbuster deal for right wing Marian Hossa, said his decision to pursue a long-term deal with the Penguins was made soon after that trade.

"I've been saying since I arrived that I wanted to make it a place for me and my family," said Dupuis, who scored twice and recorded 12 points in 16 regular-season games with the Penguins. "My family and I were treated in a first-class way. Plus, this team is so young and so good, and I wanted to be part of that.

"This team is going to win. I want to be here when that happens."

Eaton's two-year tenure with the Penguins has been marred by injuries. He has appeared in only 71 of 164 regular-season games. He missed the entire second half and playoffs this past season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Eaton said he will be healthy for training camp.

"That's why I wanted to come back so bad," Eaton said. "I don't like the way my past two seasons have finished. Nothing was more painful than watching my teammates go to the Stanley Cup final, lose and not being able to do anything about it.

"It motivates me. I have him some unfinished business."

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