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Orpik's camp optimistic about possible contract

| Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brooks Orpik has started working out for the upcoming NHL season.

What remains undetermined is whether Orpik and the Penguins can work out terms for a new contract that would keep him in Pittsburgh next season and beyond.

Orpik's camp is hopeful the Penguins will present an offer today. He is one of 12 players from their Stanley Cup final roster that can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

General manager Ray Shero has less than a week to decide which of those players he will push hard to prevent from hitting the open market. His attempt to sign right wing Marian Hossa was denied last weekend when Hossa declined a multiyear offer at $7 million annually.

Hossa will have several clubs pursuing his services July 1, and Vancouver is considered a fast-charging contender as the Canucks look to make a splash in the offseason.

The Canucks also plan to chase left wing Ryan Malone, who said last week he will exercise his unrestricted option.

Vancouver likely cannot offer Hossa $8 million annually over five years - the deal he is believed to be seeking - but would bid high for Malone, possibly more than $5 million annually on a long-term contract.

Orpik, whose star shined late in the regular season and during the playoffs while playing with defenseman Sergei Gonchar, is not expected to command either of those salaries. But he is seeking a long-term deal.

The Penguins might entice him to take accept a little less than market value - likely no worse than $3.5 million annually - with a contract slotted at four years or beyond.

There is a chance Orpik will dip his toe into the free-agent waters July 1 and present the Penguins with a chance to match - or perhaps simply get close - to any offer.

That is the likely plan for forwards Pascal Dupuis, Jarkko Ruutu, Georges Laraque and Adam Hall. Each of those impending free agents expects to hear from Shero after his pursuit of new deals for Orpik and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is slated for an arbitration hearing no sooner than July 20.

The Penguins would like to lock up Fleury with a long-term deal before that hearing. They are also confident of reaching an extension with star center Evgeni Malkin not long after July 1.

Malkin's agent, JP Barry, confirmed last weekend his client's previously stated desire to sign an extension similar to the one inked by Sidney Crosby last summer - five years at $43.5 million.

Malkin, who will play this season under the final year of his entry-level contract, cannot sign an extension until July 1, according to the league's collective bargaining agreement.

Center Jordan Staal is in the same boat, though early indications are he will not agree to an extension with the Penguins this summer. The Penguins have opened dialogue with Staal's camp, but there is no urgency on either side to sign an extension.

Veteran left wing Gary Roberts has told friends he will not return to the Penguins. Roberts reportedly wants to play at least one more NHL season - preferably in Toronto or Ottawa.

The Penguins extended qualifying offers Tuesday to the following restricted free agents: Mark Ardelan, Paul Bissonnette, Tim Brent, Patrick Ehelechner, Daniel Fernholm, Jonathan Filewich and Ryan Stone.

Note : Many of the Penguins' top prospects - including three of four players selected at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft - will make guest appearances at the team's annual youth hockey camp at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon today at 11:30 a.m. The prospects are in Pittsburgh for a conditioning camp.

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