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Pens sign Malkin to five-year extension

by Dan Rosen

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Evgeni Malkin to a five-year contract extension which will keep him paired with captain Sidney Crosby at least through the 2012-13 season.
Evgeni Malkin 2007-08 season highlights
The Pittsburgh Penguins may have lost Marian Hossa to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, but superstar Evgeni Malkin cushioned that blow quite nicely.

He's not going anywhere for quite a while.

Penguins GM Ray Shero announced that the sensational 21-year-old Russian center signed a five-year contract extension that kicks in beginning with the 2009-10 season. This ensures Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby will remain in Pittsburgh together at least through the 2012-13 season.

Malkin has one more year left on his entry-level contract.

Later in the day, the Penguins kept another key piece of their team from leaving by signing defenseman Brooks Orpik, an unrestricted free agent, to a six-year deal. Last summer, the Penguins locked up Crosby and defenseman Ryan Whitney to long-term deals.

The two signings left Shero happy despite the loss of Hossa to the team that knocked off the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

"I think we're in a really good position. Our goal was to re-sign these core players," Shero said. "We're very confident in the group we have. Last year was a great and exciting year for us. The experience our guys have had is really going to benefit us moving forward. The goal for us coming into this is to re-sign our core players. Our successful offseason is trying to maintain our core group. Evgeni Malkin told me he is interested in staying in Pittsburgh and wanted to sign a contract and that’s what we accomplished."

Rumors of Malkin's possible departure to play in Russia began circulating through the hockey world before the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa last month. Those were quickly squashed by Malkin's agent, J.P. Barry.

While at the draft, Barry told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his client was hoping to sign a contract that would mirror the one Crosby signed last summer.

"He wants to stay in Pittsburgh and keep as many of these players together and try and make a run next year," Barry told the newspaper.

While Ryan Malone and Hossa have departed, along with Gary Roberts, Adam Hall and backup goalie Ty Conklin, the Penguins' young, talented corps is still very much in tact now that Malkin is officially on board for the long haul.

However, Shero knows he still has some work to do.

"We still have Marc-Andre Fleury to go," he said of working on a contract for the restricted free agent goaltender, "and I am hopeful we can get something worked out in the next couple of days. It's a great core to have and I am sure many franchises would trade their core for ours."

Shero also will try to work out a deal with Jordan Staal, who becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

"I'll talk to Jordan sometime in the summertime and express the interest in trying to extend him," Shero said. "I think it was important for me to express the importance he has on this team.

"To me, Ryan Malone leaves and Jordan Staal is going to take that ice time. That’s the next step in his career and that’s what he has to do. We’re fortunate that a guy like Jordan Staal is going to be getting that power play time now and the critical minutes, which is the next step in his career. I am very happy that Jordan will step into that role, and he will certainly be ready for it."

Malkin, who won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 2006-07, was the runner-up to countrymen Alex Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy this past season. He played in all 82 games and finished second in the NHL to Ovechkin with 106 points on 47 goals and 59 assists.

He finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 10 goals and 12 assists. Malkin, though, said he was struck by the flu early in the Stanley Cup Final, which explains why his production waned. He didn't register a point in the first four games against the Red Wings, but finished with a flurry, scoring a goal and adding two assists over the final two games of the Final.

Though the Penguins have to replace Hossa and Malone, Shero is confident the team will remain strong.

"We have guys who have called me to express their interest in playing here, same as last year," he said. "They want to play here and that's my interest. I am happy that Brooks Orpik took less money to play here; he wants to be here. Evgeni Malkin wants to be here.”

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