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Bryan Rust foregoes free agency, signs 6-year deal with Penguins

Bryan Rust is staying in Pittsburgh.

The veteran forward, who was scheduled to become a free agent this summer, agreed to a six-year contract with the Penguins that will keep him with the club through 2028.

The deal, announced on Saturday, carries an average annual value of $5.125 million US.

Rust, 30, scored 24 goals to go with a career-best 34 assists this season. Rust said earlier this week he would prefer to remain in Pittsburgh but added “I’ve played at a higher level than what my contract has said the last few years.”

Rust was finishing up a contract that paid him $3.5 million a season. Now he’ll get a raise and stay in a place where he’s been a fixture for the better part of a decade.

A third-round pick in the 2010 draft, Rust made his NHL debut on Dec. 13, 2014. Since his arrival, only Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have scored more for the Penguins than the 124 goals he’s piled up in 424 games.

Rust also served as a vital part of Pittsburgh’s run to consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Rust has 21 goals in 79 career playoff games, and he is one of four players in NHL history to have each of their first three game-winning goals in the playoffs clinch series.

“Bryan exemplifies what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall said in a statement. “His leadership qualities and experience as a two-time Stanley Cup champion is an important piece of our team.”

Rust’s signing is the first domino to fall on what could be a very busy summer for the Penguins. Pittsburgh reached the playoffs for the 16th straight season — the longest active streak in major North American sports — but fell in seven games to the New York Rangers in the first round.

Malkin and Kris Letang are among several high-profile players who are scheduled to hit the open market this summer. Like Rust, they have expressed a desire to stay in Pittsburgh but unlike Rust, they are in the latter portions of their career. Malkin turns 36 in July while Letang turned 35 in April.

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