Penguins: Crosby in a bind thanks to lockout

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Sidney Crosby wants to play hockey.

Specifically, he wants to play hockey in the NHL.

No later than, oh, right this instant.

Of course, he realizes that isn't going to happen because the league has been shut down by a lockout since mid-September and the chances of a quick settlement between the NHL and its players association are dwarfed by those of it being sunny and 70 degrees in southwestern Pennsylvania today.

Indeed, there were no negotiations Monday and face-to-face contact between officials of the league and the NHLPA seems unlikely today, too.

Some players idled by the dispute have found work overseas. Others have participated in charity games, as Penguins forward Craig Adams did Friday in Chicago.

Those options don't appeal to Crosby nearly as much as returning to his regular job would, but they are more attractive than not playing at all. The catch is that neither might be terribly realistic, because of the cost of insuring his contracts with the Penguins.

Crosby has one season, during which he was supposed to be paid $7.5 million, remaining on his current agreement, and signed a 12-year deal worth $104.4 million in July.

He also suffered a severe concussion in early January 2011 and, after finally recovering from that, missed part of the 2011-12 season because of a severe neck injury.

His future earnings and recent physical problems converge in a perfect storm of circumstances to bloat the price of insurance. His agent, Pat Brisson, said that it could cost as much as $400,000 per month to get Crosby the coverage he needs.

That kind of expense doesn't fit into the budget of most European clubs, let alone the organizers of games designed to raise money for charitable causes.

His former teammate Max Talbot has helped put together a series of charity games in the province of Quebec and Crosby, who played major-junior hockey there, was interested in participating until he learned the cost of insurance was prohibitive.

"It's not as easy as just going to play," he said. "If it was, I'd be playing in a lot more of those."

Still, he has not ruled out seeking temporary employment in Europe, where it's conceivable a wealthy team owner would decide he can absorb Crosby's insurance costs, and said this week's developments in the talks for a new collective bargaining agreement will influence how aggressively he explores that possibility.

"We'll see if [the negotiators] are going to find a way to salvage anything close to a full [NHL] season," he said.

Crosby, one of two dozen players to skate in suburban Dallas last week, rejoined seven Penguins teammates for a practice Monday at Southpointe.

Earlier this fall, Crosby spent a week working out with other players in Vail, Colo. Those sessions, he said, included both on- and off-ice work, while the ones in Texas emphasized game-like situations.

"We played controlled scrimmages," he said. "That was good. It had whistles and was a little more game-like. ... It was good just to change from doing the same thing every day."

Between his trips to Vail and Dallas, Crosby probably has as good of a feel for the mindset of NHLPA members as anyone. From what he has seen and heard, Crosby said, union members are maintaining a united front.

"I think guys are all probably a bit surprised that [the lockout] has gone on this long, if anything," he said. "I don't think the belief or the unity has changed at all."

That solidarity apparently will be tested for a while longer. Crosby conceded that "it doesn't look good right now" for getting a settlement soon, although he added that it's premature to speak of writing off the season.

He also pointed out how the course of negotiations can change with little warning.

"It's funny how things work sometimes," Crosby said. "Everyone was pretty optimistic a week and a half ago, or whatever it was, and nothing really came from it.

"Maybe this time, it'll be a slow week, then, all of a sudden, we'll hear some news. Hopefully, that's the case."

NOTE -- Evgeni Malkin was named the Kontinental Hockey League's "Best Attacker" for last week after picking up nine points in three games. He had an assist in Metallurg Magnitogorsk's 7-2 victory Monday against Dinamo Minsk.

DAY 45

Online

• For more on the NHL lockout, check out the Pens Plus blog at plus.sites.post-gazette.com or follow Dave Molinari on Twitter @MolinariPG.

penguins

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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