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Penguins, forward Chris Kunitz agree to 3-year contract extension

Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates with Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring in the first period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates with Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring in the first period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Sidney Crosby will keep at least one linemate around for the long haul.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Chris Kunitz agreed to a three-year contract extension on Thursday that could keep him playing alongside Crosby until the 2016-17 season.

General manager Ray Shero says the new deal, which begins in 2014-15, will carry an annual salary cap hit of $3.85 million.

The 33-year-old Kunitz has flourished since the Penguins acquired him from Anaheim in February 2009. Splitting time between Crosby and Malkin's lines this season, Kunitz led the Penguins with 22 goals and finished second on the team with 52 points. He added five goals and five assists during the playoffs, including one of the two goals Pittsburgh scored during a four-game sweep by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

The extension continues Shero's decision to maintain the core group that led the Penguins to the second-best record in the NHL this spring. The Penguins awarded coach Dan Bylsma with a two-year extension shortly after the season ended then promptly inked Malkin to an eight-year extension.

Pittsburgh is also negotiating with defenceman Kris Letang, who is entering the final year of his contract, and forwards Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke, both of whom will become free agents next week.

Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis formed hockey's most productive line in 2013, combining for 144 points even with Crosby missing the final third of the season with a broken jaw.

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