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Pens' Shero, Hamhuis talk, but not numbers

| Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis reconnected with an old friend Monday, and the Penguins hope it was the resumption of a beautiful relationship.

General manager Ray Shero spoke directly with Hamhuis, whose rights were acquired last Friday in a trade with Philadelphia at the NHL Entry Draft. Shero was the assistant general manager with Nashville when Hamhuis was drafted in 2001.

"This (conversation) was all about expressing what we have here, why he's a good fit, why he's a guy we'd like to sign," Shero said, adding that numbers and term for a potential contract were not discussed with either Hamhuis or his agent.

"At the same time it was about hearing from Dan, and I told him it has to be a good fit for us as well. It's important for me that players want to be here in Pittsburgh. I told him that if over the next day or so he wants to move forward with that - well, let's talk."

Shero said he is flexible with signing Hamhuis, 27, to a long-term deal. Hamhuis' agent, Wade Arnott, said he expects to talk with Shero today.

There is little flexibility regarding defenseman Sergei Gonchar, whose agent is seeking a three-year deal.

Shero's policy is not to divulge details of contract negotiations.

Gonchar's agent, JP Barry, confirmed last week that his three-year proposed term on a new contract is a sticking point. Also, Gonchar has not publicly said he will take less than the $5 million annual salary he was paid the past five seasons.

The Penguins' projection for available salary-cap space is around $11 million for next season. Most of that would be committed if Hamhuis and Gonchar sign before July 1.

Barry described negotiations, which included a couple of conversations yesterday, as "brass tacks" time. Shero reiterated that "nothing's dead" regarding Gonchar, but added, "We don't have a deal, either."

"We're pretty set on what we can do," Shero said. "We know that. The agent knows that."

No deadline has been imposed by the Penguins for any of their free agents, and Shero is "trying to keep everybody in the loop." He spoke yesterday with agents for right wing Bill Guerin and defenseman Mark Eaton, and over the weekend with defenseman Jordan Leopold's agent.

He didn't rule out retaining any player after the market opens, but if a player reaches Thursday he wouldn't hold out hope for that player returning.

"We've had one stroke of luck with that (situation), and that was with (defenseman) Brooks (Orpik)," Shero said, referring to the 2008 offseason.

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