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PITTSBURGH Penguins acquire veteran goalie



Published: Thu, August 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jocelyn Thibault signed a two-year, $3 million contract.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins signed veteran goaltender Jocelyn Thibault to a two-year, $3 million contract after acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks for a fourth-round pick in next year's draft.

Thibault, 30, became expendable to the Blackhawks after they signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year, $27 million deal that made him the NHL's highest-paid goaltender on Friday.

"Jocelyn brings a wealth of experience to our goaltending corps and will help us tremendously as we move forward," Penguins general manager Craig Patrick said.

Thibault didn't immediately return a request for comment left with his agent, Bob Sauve.

Experienced player

Thibault has played in 536 NHL games, with a 2.69 goals-against average, 36 shutouts and a 227-217-68 record.

Thibault has played in more than 60 games in four of his last five seasons, all with Chicago.

Thibault played for Quebec, Colorado and Montreal before being traded to the Blackhawks during the 1998-99 season.

"Jocelyn is a class act and did a lot for our organization," Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon said in a statement Wednesday. "We're happy to be able to get a deal done and we're happy that he's going to a good situation in Pittsburgh. He'll do quite well for them, we wish him all the best. It was strictly a business decision."

The Penguins have been shopping for another veteran goaltender to complement the highly regarded, but unproven, Marc-Andre Fleury and their other young goalie, Sebastien Caron.

The Penguins at first bid for the services of veteran netminder Sean Burke, 38. The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning signed Burke to a two-year, $3.2 million deal to replace Khabibulin on Tuesday, so Pittsburgh was forced to look elsewhere.

New faces

Thibault is the Penguins' fourth acquisition since the NHL solved its labor dispute.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar; high-scoring forward Zigmund Palffy; and Andre Roy, a tough, fourth-line winger, are the others.

The Penguins are hoping to reverse several seasons of losing hockey and falling attendance by adding to a nucleus including player/owner Mario Lemieux and veteran Mark Recchi.

The Penguins also boast No. 1 draft pick Sidney Crosby, last year's No. 2 pick, Evgeni Malkin -- who has yet to sign with the team -- and Fleury.

Fleury has shown flashes of the talent that caused him to be the first overall draft pick two years ago. But he played just 21 games for the Penguins in 2003-04 before he was returned to Cape Breton in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Team Canada in the World Junior Championships that year.

Fleury is 4-14-2 with a 3.64 GAA for the Penguins.

Caron has played in 64 games for the Penguins in the past two seasons, compiling a 16-38-7 record with a 3.31 GAA.




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