Free Agency/Day 1: Hossa, Orpik Still Available

Malkin's 5-year extension almost done with an annual cap hit of $8.7 million; Dupuis, Eaton opt to stay with Penguins



The Penguins still haven't found an elite right winger to replace Marian Hossa on their No. 1 line.

Then again, they still don't know for certain that they'll have to.

It's entirely possible Hossa will be working elsewhere this fall -- teams from across North America have presented him with contract proposals hefty enough that he could buy a franchise, not just work for it -- but he still hasn't told the Penguins that he won't return.

Nor, for that matter, has defenseman Brooks Orpik. He attracted plenty of interest around the NHL during his first day of free agency, too, but he hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Penguins.

Indications are that staying remains Orpik's preference, although his decision ultimately might hinge on how close the Penguins are willing to come to offers he receives from elsewhere.

General manager Ray Shero and his staff worked well into the night, with much of their efforts believed to be directed at trying to find common ground with Orpik.


The SIGNED

LW Pascal Dupuis
Contract: 3 years, $4.2 million
The skinny: Versatile forward, strong penalty-killer

D Mark Eaton
Contract: 2 years, $4 million
The skinny: Solid defensive defenseman, good shot-blocker

RW Eric Godard
Contract: 3 years, $2.25 million
The skinny: Subpar skating and skill, effective fighter

The DEPARTED

G Ty Conklin
Signed with Detroit 1 year, $750,000
The skinny: Has earned one-way ticket to NHL.

RW Adam Hall
Signed with Tampa Bay 3 years, $1.8 million
The skinny: Reliable defensively, solid on faceoffs.

Analysis by Dave Molinari

Note: Dollar figures are total contract value


Although neither Hossa nor Orpik signed yesterday, that didn't reflect a widespread reluctance among general managers to spend liberally. Defenseman Brian Campbell, for example, got a $56.8 million, eight-year deal with Chicago, while Vancouver offered Mats Sundin a two-year package worth $20 million.

While retaining Hossa and Orpik remains management's most pressing concern, working out a new contract for center Evgeni Malkin might have the greatest long-term impact of anything the Penguins do during the free-agency period that began yesterday.

Formal announcement of the deal is pending, but it is patterned after one Sidney Crosby signed last summer: Malkin's contract covers five seasons and will have an annual salary-cap hit of $8.7 million.

Malkin's contract won't take effect for another year. He, like fellow center Jordan Staal, has a season left on his entry-level contract.

The Penguins didn't add -- or lose -- any big-name talent yesterday but signed three players and had two others accept offers elsewhere.

They retained forward Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Mark Eaton, both of whom were eligible for unrestricted free agency, and picked up 6-foot-4, 214-pound right winger Eric Godard from Calgary.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, signed Adam Hall to a three-year contract worth $600,000 per season, while Detroit gave goalie Ty Conklin a one-year deal worth $750,000.

Godard is one of the NHL's better enforcers, and his acquisition means that right winger Georges Laraque -- widely regarded as the league's premier heavyweight -- will not return.

The decision to bring in Godard, whose on-ice demeanor is more volatile and unpredictable than Laraque's, was transparently financial.

Goodard will make $725,000 in 2008-09, followed by $750,000 and $775,000. Laraque earned $1.3 million last season and is believed to be seeking $1.5 million in his next deal.

Godard, who broke into the NHL with the New York Islanders, had one goal, one assist and 171 penalty minutes in 74 games with the Flames last season. His NHL career totals: three goals, five assists and 481 penalty minutes in 200 games.

Godard picked up 17 fighting majors in 2007-08, tying Krys Barch of Dallas for ninth in the NHL. Laraque had 13.

While Godard's game is one-dimensional, Dupuis is versatile enough to play either wing and to be used in a variety of situations. That's a big part of the reason he'll get $1.4 million in each of the next three seasons.

Eaton, meanwhile, will be paid $2 million annually. When healthy, he is a strong defensive defenseman, as well as an excellent shot-blocker and penalty-killer.

He missed 93 of 164 possible games because of injuries during the past two seasons, though, and is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. After the Penguins' playoff run, Eaton said he expected to be back to 100 percent for the start of training camp.


NOTES -- In addition to Hossa and Orpik, the Penguins have three free agents still on the market. They are forwards Jarkko Ruutu, Jeff Taffe and Kris Beech. The Penguins definitely are interested in keeping Ruutu. ... Contrary to several recent reports out of Europe, the Penguins have neither signed defenseman Josef Melichar nor discussed a contract with him, although they have that option. Melichar spent most of last season with Linkoping HC in Sweden's Elitserien.




Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published July 2, 2008 4:00 AM


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