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So…what do the Penguins do with Letang?

Jun 13, 2013, 11:17 AM EDT

letangtoughnightgetty Getty Images

On Thursday, the Penguins dropped $76 million to keep Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh until 2022, which made for an interesting situation.

With the majority of the club’s money locked up in core players like Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million), James Neal (six years, $30 million) and now Malkin, questions immediately abounded about how GM Ray Shero would retain the services of a number of key UFAs.

Specifically, Kris Letang.

The 26-year-old Norris nominee is heading into the final season of a four-year, $14 million deal, coming off a campaign in which he continued to produce as one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen: 38 points in 35 games, tied with PK Subban for the league lead among blueliners (Subban had the advantage of playing seven more games, though).

Letang has essentially been a point-a-game producer over the last two seasons, and has carried that scoring rate into the postseason.

So…what do the Penguins do with him?

Shero’s already on record saying Letang won’t be going anywhere. But, at the same time, he admitted the Pens will have to undergo some restructuring.

“This team is going to change,” said Shero. “It happens every year with free agency, salary cap, trades. Change is sometimes good and sometimes hard.”

Pittsburgh also needs to know what Letang wants to be paid.

On that note, here’s Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Letang, 26, seeks at least a five-year contract  with a full no-trade clause, though he prefers an eight-year term. He also wants  a full no-movement clause. Compensation is trickier because Letang is the first  in-his-prime defenseman set to hit the open market under the new labor deal. 

The Penguins believe Letang will want at least $7  million annually and closer to or above $8 million.

And here’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who notes that negotiations between Shero and Letang’s agent, Kent Hughes, haven’t started yet:

It seems the biggest question will be if Pittsburgh wants to pay Letang as its elite, No. 1 defenseman, making him the guy.

On the surface, that decision might seem like a no-brainer — he was nominated as one of the three best blueliners in the league — but Letang still struggles with the defensive side of the game and has a penchant for turnovers and questionable decisions.

In short, he’s far from the perfect all-around defenseman.

Pittsburgh also has future blueliners to consider. The club spent a pair of first-round picks in 2012 on defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta and a second-round pick in 2011 on Scott Harrington.

Simon Despres, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, looks as though he’s ready to become a full-time NHLer. And there’s also the veterans to consider — Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik — neither of whom is signed past 2015.

So…what would you do with Letang?

  1. axisofweasels - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    letang is french for the tang

  2. ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    Sign him!…..8 years – 54mil….. 6.75 million per season. His contract wouldn’t kick in till 14-15 when the pens only have 34.1 counting aganst the cap. At 26 his defense can and will get better.

    • stakex - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      That $34 million in 14-15 is for SIX players. That’s already a huge problem they have just created for themselves, but if they did a deal like you suggest, they would then have spend $41 million of the $64 million cap on seven players…. including a goalie. That’s a crisis.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Jun 13, 2013 at 6:28 PM

        The only crisis is that there are actually people that believe players can simply be interchanged. Or that Letang making 6.5 -7 million a year is a bigger problem than keeping Martin, Niskanen, or Engo.

        Letang’s offensive ability can’t just be taught. If it it could every offensive d-man would be putting up Erik Karlsson numbers. The fact is that it’s God given talent. I’d rather trade the other three for a highend physical stay at hoe d-man to compliment him and then use young guys like Doumolin, Despres, and Bortuzzo along with Orpik to round out my top 6.

        Pouliout, Matta, and Harrington are all two years away.

  3. timmeh022 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    If he doesn’t sign a deal for around $5 mil, maybe $5.5 tops, he is gone.

    • valarmorghuliss - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Then he is gone

      • timmeh022 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        Depends on how bad he and his luscious locks want to stay in Pittsburgh

      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Not for Gonchar money, not at the end of a team friendly deal in his prime.

        If you Pens fans think he’s signing for 5-5.5, you’re in dreamland.

      • miketoasty - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        valarmorghuliss – No ones saying he would even think about a deal at that price, we are saying that that is the max we believe the Pens will offer him. I already consider him gone, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him being traded over the summer, while he is worth the most coming off a Norris nomination season, and tying for top defenseman in points.

    • coopjr - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      You want Letang to sign for Matt Carle money? Will never happen.

      Pens have a real problem here. Letang will be expensive, he will put up points, he will continue to be a defensive liability, and he might never be worth the money he is sure to get on the open market.

      Perhaps a trade should be in the works (and perhaps it is in the works).

      • timmeh022 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        I’m not even a Penguins fan, I’m just hypothetically saying that would be the only amount that the Pens could offer, they can afford to go any higher than $5.5 to sign him, which he shouldn’t take that big of a pay cut, but I’ve seen crazier things happen.

      • timmeh022 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        can’t afford to*

  4. jeffersonkostilnick - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    He has nice hair.

    • axisofweasels - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      its no 80s jagr, but its nice.

  5. jpelle82 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    get rid of him. cant have guys like pouliot, maatta, doumolin, harrington waste away in the ahl after drafting them so high. then you also cant have a bunch of puck movers like those guys come up and play with letang and have no stay at home guys to go with him. letang is too expensive now.

    • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      You’re right, so get rid of:

      -Martin who has only had one goo year in the 3 he has been in Pittsburgh, and who isn’t physical
      -Murray who is too slow and will want over 3 million
      -Eaton who is 36 and can’t play more than 15 minutes a game
      -Niskanen who also isn’t physical enough and is slow
      -Engo who you only like because he hits, but isn’t an NHL caliber d-man

      Letang is a highend talent who you can’t replace…..he’s a must keep!

      • jpelle82 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        engo is cheap and he fights well too. i like keeping a guy like him in the bottom pair. i agree on murray, eaton too slow but they are sound positionally so you pair them with a young puck mover and it could be a good combo. niskanen has been on my sh!t list for a while, he is not gonna be around much longer in my opinion – he’s too inconsistent, he will have a great game and then crap the bed in the next 3. martin is such a tough one for me though, he had a good bounce back year and carried the load well while letang was out, i still just dont think they can afford him in the long run. i think they let his contract ride and trade him at the deadline with a pick for a better defensive defenseman maybe. letang has got to go….unless they buy out martin and then pay letang the 6-6.5. martin at 5 mill is cheaper and did fine on the pp.

      • stakex - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Players can always be replaced. If you can get embarrassed in the playoffs with him, you can do it without him.

        In fact Letang would have a moderately high trade value and he would fetch a solid return for the Pens. Perhaps even a decent defensive defensemen. The Pens don’t need Letangs goal scoring… they need better defense then he can play.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Jun 13, 2013 at 6:40 PM

        Not all players can be replaced.

        I think the Pens recieved good return for Jordan Staal BUT would Jordan Staal have done more to help the Pens get past the Bruins than Brandon Sutter?….YES!

        And, I agree Letang might have high trade value. But considering he was in contention for the Norris trophy AND that on the open market another team would throw 7.5+ million a year at him. His return to us if he were a RFA would be FOUR first round picks. The Pens better be sure the trade they make nets them significant enough return because the offensive side your giving up is HUGE.

        It’s a myth that any d-man with Crosby and Malkin can put up huge numbers. Paul Martin is a perfect example of this. He was supposed to have huge untapped upside coming from NJ that took three years to materialize and it tailed off as the shortened season went on.

        Letang is unique. You pay the man close to what he’s worth and find your fill ins elsewhere.

  6. rpiotr01 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Make him get a haircut first, he looks like a wet Springer Spaniel with that mop.

    • drone501 - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      trade him. pick up a good stay at home d man and possible a goalie. whats the worst that can happen. we get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

  7. 19to77 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    The Pens learned in Boston why running a D who plays like a fourth skill forward can blow up in their faces. Letang’s a double-edged sword at the best of times – his extremely high level of skill and speed syncs well with Crosby and the rest and he’s an excellent power play quarterback, but it’s way too easy to catch him out of position or intercept a bad pass and he’s not a strong backchecker.

    Those kinds of guys can be very useful to a team – but the thing is, the Pens don’t really need one. They’ve already got a top six stacked with world-class skill forwards. What does Letang give them that they don’t have ample amounts of already? His niche doesn’t make much sense there.

    In addition, they have a TON of elite defensive prospects milling around in the minors waiting for a chance. Letang’s best value at this point is in trade – a year of his services at $3.5m will carry a hefty return by default. Gritty, hard-hitting shutdown D, a skilled two-way forward, prospects, anything’s on the table with a guy like that. It opens up minutes for the prospects, gets them new players in return and clears cap space for a Dupuis resigning – which should honestly be higher-priority considering the two-way play and veteran leadership he brings to the team.

    • miketoasty - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. No need to post anything else on this article, everything is right here.

    • bru308 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Very good comment. Hit it right on the head.

    • valoisjoeybfeld69 - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

      Keep in mind that Letang is still growing his game, and he’s probably the hardest working d man on the roster, and that hard work as been very beneficial. He wasn’t nominated for the Norris trophy by chance. The Pens should be very patient considering the fact that he is the most improved d man, and they know that it always takes longer for a d man to hone his skills.

  8. pensman29 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Does anybody here think another teams gm will listen to a trade for letang? Or should Shero just keep him for this last year and try to win a cup then let him walk? Cause I think they would be making a huge mistake to resign him if he wants 7mm. Personally I would like to trade him. But who would we get in return? A couple very defensive guys like orpik?

  9. phillyphanatic77 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    If the Flyers don’t over-extend themselves this offseason, I could see them throwing Weber money (more annually, less term, obviously) at Letang on the open market. He’s not worth Weber money but the organization has probably seen enough of Letang to meet his demands. Pens fans were pissed about Talbot, can’t imagine how they’d feel about Letang switching sides.

    • Habib Marwan - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      i was already thinking about the flyers getting in on this .. good call

    • jpelle82 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      they went after streit…they wont be able to do both. and then even if they were able to somehow swing it, they would have timmonen, streit, letang who can all move the puck but are second rate defensively…not what the flyers need at this point.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

        But when has the Flyers not being able to afford someone ever stopped them in the past? They offered identical, more lucrative deals, to both Parise and Suter last offseason, simultaneously. Then offered a huge contract to Weber when they didn’t have the cap space. They offer the money first then, subsequently, make the necessary follow up moves (sign Bryz, trade Carter+Richards). And when have they ever let a marquee name pass by, even if it’s not what they need? If Letang, an elite, puck-moving defenseman, in his prime, hit free agency, the Flyers would be drooling. AND Timonen’s $6mil cap hit comes off the books after this season, along with Mezsaros’ $4mil. They will have $18.5 mil in cap space next summer and that’s if the $64 ceiling doesn’t go up, which it probably will. Of course that’s not including Streit’s potential deal and extensions for Giroux, Bschenn, Couturier, and Read.

        However, I have no doubt in my mind that if the Pens are unable to resign Letang, and he hits unrestricted free agency, at age 27, the Flyers would be first in line. They’d offer him a huge deal then move other contracts to fit him. It’s how they operate.

    • chanceoffleury1 - Jun 13, 2013 at 8:00 PM

      ehhh, they should be careful. Giroux is gonna get a huge raise and Voracek won’t be long behind him. Nor will he be that much cheaper. Courtier and Schenn will be due, also. And as jpelle mentioned, Strait will probably sill be on thier payroll then, too. If Letang leaves via FA (and not a trade) then he is going to get 7 million a year, at least. He’s not worth it, but he’ll get it. Even with Briere and Bryzgalov buyouts I’m not sure they could do it. Keep in mind they’re already 3 million over as it is this year. That means they’d have to free up 10 million dollars in cap space to compete for him, and that is keeping Giroux, Voracek, Schenn, and Courtier at their current cap hits for their next contracts which will never happen. I could see someone like the Islanders or Leafs picking him up though. They have the cap space to throw a ton of money at him, plus they looked competitive this year. Phaneuf would be coming off the Leafs payroll after next year, too. Letang could be the blueline stud the Leafs never really got out of him.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:47 PM

        I never said it would be smart, it’s just how they seem to do things. Voracek just signed a new deal so he’s locked up for 3 more years. While Schenn and Couturier will probably get 2-3 yr bridge contracts, hopefully w cap hits around the $2.15 (or less) that David Perron got on his bridge deal, as they haven’t produced as much as he did. And I’d imagine Giroux will get a long term contract, hopefully at around the $6.3 Kane and Toews make, probably $7. But, like I said above, the Flyers will have $18.5mil in space next summer, before Streit and those extensions (but also before the potential buyouts of Bryz+Briere). So they will have some flexibility. I’m not saying it’s close to a sure thing; or that Letang would even come here. And it may not be smart, but it’s the type of move that has Flyers written all over it. They’re a team that would give Letang $7+mil.

      • Habib Marwan - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:26 PM

        voracek needs to show he’s more then a one year wonder before he gets some big fat contract

  10. wicky888 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    He looks like Joe Dirt

  11. girouxed - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Wow another penguins article. I guess I might as well become a penguins fan If I want to continue reading anything in here.

  12. malkinrulez - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Letang is a great offensive d man but will drive you crazy defensively at times. Another issue is he has the worst injury luck in the NHL… Or close to it. I hate to see him go but no way do I pay him anywhere near 7 mil. Time for some young guys to step up.

  13. greenmtnboy31 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Considering his abysmal showing in the postseason, Letang should just count himself lucky that he has a job in the NHL. He cost the Pens several goals in that series and did NOTHING on the offensive end of things. He’s not at the same level as PK, Lidstrom, Markov or other elite defensemen, so he shouldn’t go off the reservation with contract demands.

    • terrimunch - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      Considering the playoffs consisted of three rounds, I hardly think he had an abysmal postseason. How about you consider the fact that he was tied for the team lead with Geno with 16 points. Sorry, but I don’t consider leading the team in points doing NOTHING on the offensive end. You’re an idiot and must not be watching the same games I am. Yes, the last series against Boston wasn’t his best in the first two games, however, NOBODY else did anything either. Should we trade them all?????

  14. bobhpine - Jun 13, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    I’d offer him $50 mil over 8 years and not a penny more. And no way he gets a no trade.

    58 has huge offensive talent, but in May and June it’s the D that really matters and Letang has shown he is still prone to the backbreaking defensive lapse that can lose you a game, a series, a shot at the cup.

    And if he must be traded, I want Letang nowhere east of Denver. I don’t want to see Letang’s highlights in the eastern standard time zone.

  15. 1901wmadison - Jun 13, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    I believe the phrase is “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

    Or “caught between a rock and a hard place”, whichever you prefer.

  16. ironman721 - Jun 13, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    I think they ride with him for a year and bring up the young guys in 2014-2015.

  17. desertfan - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    5years @ $6 per.

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