PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t want Sidney Crosby to miss even a minute of their first training camp in two years. The NHL’s labor agreement made it all but certain he wouldn’t.

The Penguins are expected to announce today that the No. 1 draft pick has signed his first NHL contract, a formality since the new labor deal limits his first-year compensation to $850,000 in salary and $850,000 in bonuses.

Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, flew to Pittsburgh on Thursday night to meet Penguins general manager Craig Patrick this morning to finalize the agreement. To maximize local TV coverage before the Steelers start dominating it over the weekend, the two sides are expected to announce the deal this afternoon.

The bonuses are expected to be tied to relatively easily obtainable standards for a player of Crosby’s ability, such as scoring 20 goals, getting 35 assists, making the all-rookie team and being among the top three rookie forwards in plus-minus.

Until he gets several more years of experience, the 18-year-old Crosby is all but certain to make more money via endorsements and promotions than he does in salary.

Crosby could earn even more money during what is expected to be the most closely watched season by an NHL rookie since Mario Lemieux’s debut with in Pittsburgh in 1984-85.

But he must win the rookie of the year award, the Hart trophy as the league MVP or be the scoring leader, all of which earn bonus money paid by the teams and the league.

Crosby first visited Pittsburgh last month for the team’s rookie orientation camp.

Crosby is due back for the start of training camp Tuesday and a week’s worth of preseason practice before the Penguins shift their camp to their Wilkes-Barre, Pa., minor league affiliate’s arena.

Crosby is looking forward to the camp, mostly to get acquainted with players such as Lemieux, Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Sergei Gonchar and Jocelyn Thibault that, until now, he’s seen play only in person.

“I’m excited to play with any guys in the NHL, but when you see some of the names they’re bringing in, I mean it’s going to be a great experience,” he said. “No. 1 draft picks go to a place that’s rebuilding and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play with a team that’s going to compete every night.”

Crosby will make his NHL debut Oct. 5 at New Jersey.

AP-ES-09-08-05 1915EDT

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