Malkin still willing to take lower salary

Hossa, Roberts decisions will not alter plan for reduced salary

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Evgeni Malkin's agent made it known Friday that Malkin isn't interested in any mega-offer he might receive from a team in his native Russia.

He also is willing to accept less than market value in his next contract with the Penguins because, like teammate Sidney Crosby, he wants to enhance general manager Ray Shero's chances of assembling a championship-caliber lineup in the salary-cap era.

Less than 24 hours later, management's personnel plans took a hit when right winger Marian Hossa informed the team he plans to explore free agency July 1, likely shrinking the chances he will re-sign from nominal to pretty much nil.

That almost certainly will bring about a major adjustment to the Penguins' offseason plans, but what it did not change was Malkin's willingness to take a reduced salary -- probably something in the neighborhood of $8.5 million -- for the sake of the franchise.

"Evgeni understands that some players will not stay for many reasons," said J.P. Barry, his agent. "He simply hopes that his approach helps the team either re-sign existing players or bring in new players so they can be one of the best teams in the league.

"We have provided Ray our proposal and I will continue to speak with him this week as he works at putting together the best team possible, given salary-cap constraints."

Although free agency doesn't start for another week, most indications at this point are that the Penguins will lose Hossa and left winger Ryan Malone.

Whether they're able to keep rugged defenseman Brooks Orpik remains to be seen. Shero has contacted Orpik and his agent, Lewis Gross, but is not believed to have put a formal offer on the table.

Shero characterized the situation with his free agents-to-be as "just an ongoing process," although that process likely veered in a new direction when Hossa decided he would explore free agency. Taking him out of the mix could free money to sign players who filled significant, albeit less prominent, roles the past season.

In addition to Hossa, Orpik and Malone, nine players who finished the season on the Penguins' major league roster are eligible for unrestricted free agency a week from today.

Shero has spoken with the agents for most, if not all, of them since the end of the playoffs, although it still isn't clear exactly who he will try -- or be able -- to sign.

Allan Walsh, agent for winger Pascal Dupuis and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, discussed both of his clients with Shero and his assistant, Chuck Fletcher, at the draft in Ottawa, and said yesterday that "both cases right now are in a somewhat sensitive time."

Dupuis, acquired Feb. 26 from Atlanta with Hossa, is eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1. Although the Penguins filed to take Fleury to arbitration to avoid having him qualify for restricted free agency next week, both sides have expressed interest in working out a long-term agreement before the hearing.

Rick Curran, who represents winger Adam Hall, talked with Shero in Ottawa and said he has "a pretty neutral feeling" about the prospects of him returning.

He added that "Adam made it clear he'd like to come back," and that "I think it can get done."

Hall earned a spot on the roster via a training-camp tryout last fall and elevated his stock with a strong playoff performance.

Defenseman Mark Eaton's agent, Steve Bartlett, had what he called "a real casual conversation" with Shero at the draft and did not get a firm commitment about the team's intentions.

Shero's position, Bartlett said, was that "we still very much like Mark Eaton, but I'm in ... very much of a jackpot with trying to figure out how the dominoes are going to fall" with all of the Penguins' other free agents-to-be.

Eaton, signed as a free agent two years ago, was effective as a penalty-killer and partner for Sergei Gonchar, but was limited to 71 games the past two seasons because of injuries, and did not play after Dec. 23 because his knee had to be surgically reconstructed.

"Sometimes, guys just have bad streaks," Bartlett said. "They were freaky injuries. We think he can still be a pretty attractive player."

NOTES -- Shero and Don Baizley, who represents winger Jarkko Ruutu, are expected to talk before July 1, but there is no word on precisely when it will happen. ... Curran also represents three-time Penguins winger Mark Recchi, now with Atlanta. The Thrashers have expressed interest in bringing him back, Curran said, while noting that Recchi might "see what interest there might be in other places" when he qualifies for unrestricted free agency next week. ... The college players who will attend the Penguins' conditioning camp this week, such as defensemen Brian Strait and Carl Sneep, are paying their own way, so they can preserve their NCAA eligibility. Tyler Murovich, who helped to lead Mt. Lebanon High School to a state title in 2006, will attend the camp.

Dave Molinari can be reached at . First Published June 24, 2008 4:00 AM


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