Agent: Martin ‘open’ to extension talks with Pens

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Veteran defenseman and U.S. Olympian Paul Martin is a pending UFA, but ready to talk shop regarding a new contract with Pittsburgh.

From the Tribune-Review:

Martin’s agent, Ben Hankinson, told the Tribune-Review that Martin is “committed to playing hockey” right now, but the defenseman is “open to contract talks as long as they aren’t a distraction to the team.”

Martin, 33, makes $5 million annually and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

“There is no time frame right now,” Martin said. “I’m focusing on the season. I’m sure we’ll come to it.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Through 13 games this year, Martin has seen a dip in his usage — 21:53 TOI per game, down from a career-high 25:20 during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign — but remains a key cog in Pittsburgh’s defense (he leads the team in shorthanded minutes.)

That said, Pittsburgh does have a slew of young, talented d-men — Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin — on the horizon, which could squeeze Martin out. What’s more, the Pens have another key defenseman going UFA this summer in Christian Ehrhoff.

And for Martin, there’s the lure of free agency.

Hitting the market has proven lucrative for veteran defensemen in years past — including Martin’s old Pens teammate, Brooks Orpik, who scored a five-year, $27.5 million deal with Washington this summer. This year’s UFA defenseman class doesn’t project to be overly strong, either, meaning Martin could potentially cash in.