OTTAWA (AP) -Marian Hossa told the Pittsburgh Penguins he intends to test the NHL free agent market, and the star forward expects to attract lucrative offers once bidding begins July 1.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero said Hossa decided to seek other options after Pittsburgh made what Shero called "a very, very fair contract offer."
"I got an answer from Hossa. He's going to July 1," Shero said Saturday after the final day of the NHL draft. "He tells us we look to be his first choice, but I believe he's going to go to July 1 just to make sure, and we'll see where that brings both of us.
"I think, from Marian's standpoint, he just wants to be 100 percent sure."
Shero wouldn't say what his offer was, but it's not likely he can go much higher for a player who made $7 million last season. Hossa is projected to get even more on the open market.
Knowing they could lose Hossa this summer, the Penguins still decided to pay a heavy price in acquiring him from Atlanta in February for forwards Colby Armstrong and Eric Christensen, a top prospect and a first-round draft pick.
Hossa had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 12 regular-season games with Pittsburgh, but missed six because of a knee injury. He then delivered in the playoffs, scoring a team-best 12 goals and adding 14 assists, while clicking on a line with Sidney Crosby, and helping the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup finals.
A veteran of 10 NHL seasons, Hossa is a six-time 30-goal-scorer.
The Penguins are handcuffed by the salary cap and can't afford to upset a payroll scale topped by Crosby, who is signed through 2012-13 and will make an average of $8.7 million a season. Even with the cap projected to rise from $50.3 million to $56 million next season, the Penguins must keep space open in their bid to re-sign star forward Evgeni Malkin and starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who are entering the final years of their contracts.
Besides Hossa, the Penguins have several core players, including forwards Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts and defenseman Brooks Orpik, eligible to become free agents.
"I explained to him that I've got other free agents on our team," Shero said. "What's important to me, and the word I used to him and his agent is clarity. I need some clarity in the situation here. I've got things tied up here waiting, and I need to move forward for the best interests of our hockey team."