‘There’s lots of hockey left in Brooks Orpik,’ says Pens coach

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In September, pending UFA Brooks Orpik said he’d “rather not talk about” any potential new deal with Pittsburgh.

Several months later, he’s sticking to his guns. From the Post-Gazette:

What place, if any, he has in the Penguins’ plans beyond this season is not clear, and both sides apparently are content to keep it that way.

Asked if his agent, Lewis Gross, has had any discussions with general manager Ray Shero about a new deal, Orpik smiled and said, “That’s something Ray and I agreed we wouldn’t talk about in the media. We’ll just let it play out and see what happens.”

One guy that was willing to speak about Orpik’s playing future, though, was Pens assistant coach Todd Reirden.

“There’s lots of hockey left in Brooks Orpik,” Reirden said. “I can’t say enough about the job he’s done, playing against the other team’s top players every night.

“He’s definitely not at the end of the road, in terms of his career.”

Orpik, 33, is at the end of the road contractually. He’s in the last of a six-year, $22.5 million deal, one that carries an average annual cap hit of $3.75 million.

The big-bodied defenseman has been a tremendous foot soldier for the Pens since debuting in 2002-03. He’s appeared in 701 games (the most by a Pittsburgh defenseman) and played 87 postseason contests, including all 24 en route to the team’s Stanley Cup championship in 2009.

The Pens were also extremely reliant on Orpik during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.

He averaged 22:17 TOI per game during the regular season — the second-highest total of his career — then upped his minutes per game to 25:08 in the playoffs, the highest of his career. This year he’s once again been a busy man, especially in the wake of injuries to Rob Scuderi, Kris Letang and Paul Martin, averaging over 21 minutes per game while representing the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Despite all that, Orpik’s time as a Penguin might be coming to a close.

Pittsburgh’s dedicated large sums of money to Letang ($7.25 million a season until 2022) and Scuderi, who’ll earn $3.375 annually until 2017. Martin still has one year left at $5 million, and the incoming wave of young blueline prospects — Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin — suggests Orpik might not be around past this season.

Because of that, the prospect of an uncertain future is always on Orpik’s mind.

“I’ve thought about it a ton,” he said. “I think that’s just natural. It’s always on your mind. But the only thing you can do about it now is to just try to have the same approach to games.

“I don’t want to say it puts more pressure on you, but you’re definitely aware of what your individual situation is.”