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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sidney signs mega-deal

And could have asked for more

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Sidney CROSBY'S superstitious nature and desire to win another Stanley Cup appear to have worked in favour of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the US$104.4-million, 12-year contract extension he agreed to on Thursday is clearly a massive haul, the NHL's most recognizable player could certainly have fetched more. Consider that the new deal will carry the exact same $8.7-million annual cap hit as his current one.

It didn't end up being a tough set of negotiations for Penguins general manager Ray Shero and agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports.

"He just came back after he talked to Pat, near the end here, and just said 'This (salary) is really what I want to help out with the team,"' Shero said on a conference call. "We certainly appreciate and ownership appreciates that. It's very beneficial and says a lot about Crosby."

Born Aug. 7, 1987 -- 8/7/87 -- Crosby has long been drawn to those numbers. He's the only NHL player who wears No. 87 on his sweater and if he plays through the end of the extension, he will have enjoyed 17 seasons with an $8.7-million salary cap hit.

It remains to be seen whether he'll see the end of that deal. Brisson acknowledged Thursday that the contract was structured to pay more in the front portion and Crosby would be 37 when it expires. One thing that is clear is that he's unlikely ever to play for another NHL team.

"Sidney wanted to be a Penguin forever," said Brisson.

"Emotionally, he's extremely attached to the fans and the city of Pittsburgh and the organization," he added. "When you're negotiating a contract of this magnitude, as a player it's important to understand what you want and where you want to be. Sidney understood that from Day 1."

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the extension can't officially be signed Sunday. It comes into effect for the 2013-14 season.

Crosby could have asked for the league maximum of roughly $14 million per season, but instead decided to remain the NHL's second-highest paid player. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin earns an average of $9.53 million while Crosby and teammate Evgeni Malkin each get $8.7 million.

However, by signing for less than market value, he left the Penguins in a good position to make a strong pitch for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter when free agency opens on Sunday.

"We'll be making phone calls," said Shero. "A lot of other teams will be (too)."

Despite playing a total of 69 games over the last two seasons because of concussion problems and a neck injury, Crosby is still considered by many to be the top player in the game. He had two points or more in 13 of the 22 regular-season games he appeared in last season -- finishing with a total of 37 points overall.

Shero went out of his way to thank co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle for freeing up the resources to make the deal possible. It comes with financial risk for the Penguins, who would be obligated to pay Crosby through 2025 if he sustained an injury that ended his career.

The Penguins GM declined to comment when asked if any part of the contract was insured.

Since entering the NHL in 2005, Crosby has averaged a league-best 1.4 points per game -- Ovechkin and Malkin are next best at 1.23.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2012 C8

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