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Now is the time to explore trading Letang

May 14, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT

Kris Letang Getty Images

This isn’t to say the Pittsburgh Penguins should trade Kris Letang. Let’s get that clear right off the bat. It all depends on the return. Letang may not be the best defensive defenseman in the game, and of course he’s had some serious health issues that may make potential trade partners wary. But he still logs almost 25 minutes a night, and since 2010-11, only Erik Karlsson has averaged more points per game among regular NHL blue-liners.

Which is to say, if the Pens do trade Letang, they better have a plan to replace him, both in the short- and long-term. We imagine re-signing Matt Niskanen would be part of that plan, and extending Paul Martin for a few more years might be a good idea as well. Oh, and they’d probably have to get a decent d-man back in the trade.

So if all that has to happen and it’s such a big risk, why explore dealing him in the first place? Well, for starters, as we wrote just last week, there’s a real demand around the NHL for right-handed d-men who can play regular minutes and help a team’s power play. Would Detroit be interested? You can bet Ken Holland would at least answer Ray Shero’s call.

Letang, 27, is also about to start an eight-year, $58 million contract, which comes with a cap hit of $7.25 million. Only Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have higher hits among NHL d-men. And remember, the Penguins already have two of the three highest cap hits in the league, with Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) also on the books. Bottom line: having three of the league’s top 16 cap hits presents a challenge when it comes to improving the rest of the team, and teams that lack depth don’t win Stanley Cups.

Finally, let’s not forget Olli Maatta, 19, and Derrick Pouliot, 20, a pair of blue-chip youngsters from the 2012 draft. The former is already with the Pens; the latter was recently named the WHL’s top defenseman. If all goes well, both will be excellent NHLers. Again, if all goes well. No guarantees.

  1. c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    haha Jason Brough…

    lets trade Letang, and have to get another defenseman back for him. and lets also resign the other right handed Dman on the team who isnt quite as good, and then extend the guy who is over 30…because the Pens just arent old enough yet.

    None of that can seriously make sense to you, right?

    Plenty of work to be done to this team but your looking in the wrong spots. As far as defense goes, sign Niskanen, and trade Martin. Because you dont want to lose Martin for nothing at the end of 2015 because you cant keep resigning defenseman over 30 to multi-year deals, and he can bring a great return right now and eliminate 5 million dollars from the books that can be used to resign a guy like niskanen and start bringing more young defenseman into the fold.

    You want me to just start writing the Pens articles for you?

    • whammy71 - May 14, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      Thought you were going away for a while.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 11:15 PM

        where did i say that?

    • steelernation1 - May 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      It only makes sense to trade him.the PENS dont need another goal scorer.if they can get a power forward or a reasonable defenseman and a draft pick for him they have too do the trade.too many high salaries putting a damper on signing players to improve the team.the need big strong d men not scoring d men.

      • c9castine - May 15, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        i agree thats why you trade liability james neal and starting to age will be free agent paul martin.

        we have plenty of puck moving defenseman around. we dont have a power forward who can play consistently good hockey and play physical hockey without taking 900 penalties a game.

        it would elminate 11 million dollars from the books before adding anything that came back. and as good as martin is, you wont miss them.

  2. c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Besides, he is signed in a NTC which I understand might not be fully kicked in until what, July 1st or something?

    But if you want to start developing bad relationships with players and agents at the wrong time then yeah, go ahead and trade Kris Letang.

    • miketoasty - May 14, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      When signing his new contract Letang’s biggest sticking point was some way to validate a no trade clause before his contract kicked in (And his actual NTC). The Pens management didn’t go through with it though but gave some verbal commitment to not trading him.

      I do agree though, if you move Letang it looks really bad, but I guess that’s life in any sport where you can be moved to another team, especially after a postseason like the ones the Pens just had.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        no they signed him to a limited no move clause. it just doesnt kick in until the contract actually does. he played this season on his old contract.

        Letang is our best defenseman. hes not the guy on this team that needs to go and you will NOT get a proper return for him. its impossible to.

        hes not nearly as bad defensively as he is portrayed in fact he proved the opposite these playoffs.

        time to build a proper defense around him, not sign guys like rob scuderi to play with him and put guys like engelland and bortuzzo on the bottom pairing.

      • miketoasty - May 14, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        c9 – I understand how his new contract works, but one of the big sticking points when signing it last summer is that Letang absolutely didn’t want to be traded anytime this year and made that clear. He wanted a promise of some sorts that they wouldn’t trade him before his actual NTC went into affect.

        I am with you though and would rather keep him at this point. Get Scud’s out of there, maybe resign Orpik for a year or two if he will resign for cheap and either teach Engo how to skate or work on finding a tougher D man that can play defense as well (Maybe Despres but I don’t think I’ve seen enough of him this year to say one way or another). I personally don’t think the defense is a pressing issue for this team though.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        yeah sorry i misread your post we were basically saying the same thing.

      • barkar942 - May 14, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        If you consider Letang to be your best defenseman, no wonder the Pens are in such bad shape on the blue line. Why don’t you just have Mario go get Mike Green and Michael DelZotto to be your three best defensemen. And maybe trade Malkin for Ovie. Then the Pens will be defensively unbeatable.

      • whammy71 - May 14, 2014 at 9:41 PM

        Fire Shero and the verbal agreement goes out the window.

      • miketoasty - May 15, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        barkar942 – Who would you say the best defenseman is for the Senators or the Canadians?

        Just because there are star defenseman out there that are tops on the team doesn’t make a team defensively inept. The Pens were actually one of the best teams goals against wise both in the regular season and the playoffs until they were knocked out.

        whammy – Couldn’t agree more, should be interesting to see how this all plays out. Pretty sure Letang could easily bring in the 3rd/4th liners that the Pens so desperately need or possibly even a decent left winger for Malkin (Since we all know that Jokinen is going to be walking this summer).

    • biasedhomer - May 14, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      The whole “trading someone before their extension kicks in will hurt a teams ability to sign big names” is a complete joke.
      At the end of the day, money talks.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        id say it hurts player retention more than anything.

        its more specific to letang, whose big hangup on contract negotiations last year was less about money and more about the NTC and remaining a penguin.

  3. garybrian - May 14, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    He suffered a problem with his heart recently. Any takers here?

    • stcrowe - May 14, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      It was actually a stroke, but your point is correct. Who takes that risk at this point?

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        i knew a kid in second grade that had a stroke. true story. i never asked how that happened back then.

        but i do know hes still alive and no worse for the wear, almost 25 years later.

  4. sjsharks66 - May 14, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    Hell, if the pens are looking to ditch Letang I hope Doug Wilson has his eye on him.

  5. patthehockeyfan - May 14, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Hey, sharks! Missed your posts for a while. Glad to see you’re back.

    Whatcha think about tonight’s Ducks – Kings’ match-up?

  6. miketoasty - May 14, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    My biggest problem with trying to move Letang is what kind of return are we going to get for a player that is being slightly overpaid who just had a major heart condition. I know there would probably be some takers but I just don’t think right now is the best time to trade him. I know once his NTC kicks in then it really limits what you can do with him then but I think you just have to take that chance in this situation. Or even take a chance with a different coach that could possibly try to mold him into a more reliable Dman which right now would be more valuable than his current state at least for this team (Letang’s position could be replaced by a number of puck moving defenseman that Shero drafted over the last couple of seasons).

    • thesportsjudge - May 14, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      If by 3.5 Letang is “slighty overpaid” I’d hate to hear you describe what he will be getting paid next season.

      • miketoasty - May 14, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        You do realize by saying he is being slightly overpaid I was referring to his new contract that will follow him to whatever team he is traded to?

  7. kyzslew77 - May 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Even putting the health issues aside, who is going to take on that contract and give up anything useful in return? They’re better off just keeping him.

  8. hockey412 - May 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Trade Neal. Move Letang to wing…he can still skate the puck up ice when he’s on the ice, same way Malkin does now. They are going to be loaded on offensive D-men shortly anyway.

    I understand they ‘asked’ him and he said he doesn’t want to play wing. Well, ask him louder. They still, in my opinion, are going to need help at wing. He’s one of the best skaters in the league and can do damage with Crosby at Center. Malkin doesn’t need him because he skates the puck in himself. Just do it…it’s as obvious as NOT using Iginla as a left wing.

    • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      sorry 412 but your gonna have to cite some serious sources to back up that statement

      its ridiculous the heat he takes on his defensive game hes not lidstrom or anything but he is not in the same category as erik karlson and mike green. just because he can make plays with the puck doesnt mean he cant make them without it. its a bad perception of him.

      if they signed him as a defenseman to that contract and then asked him to play wing then this is the worst management i have ever seen.

      and can we shut up about iginla now? seriously? so irrelevant.

      • hockey412 - May 14, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        1) Cite some serious sources to back up what statement?

        2) I didn’t give him an ounce of heat on his defensive game. I think at times he’s the best Dman they have on the team, and I also believe that he’s probably the most naturally athletic people on the team. I do not advise trading him – would hate to lose him – and I think he can be replaced on D, even if it’s by committee. A lot of offensively talented Dmen that weren’t even on the roster at year end.

        3) The use of Letang at wing would enable him to skate with the puck and free him of that whole ‘get back on D quickly’ thing…THAT he does not do well.

        4) The comment about Iginla is NOT irrelevant – it speaks to the mismanagement of the tools available to the team. This is not quite as clear cut as that square peg, round hole situation, but it’s similar enough to make the statement.

        5) As for the contract for defenseman, I don’t think that position is on the contract…could be wrong. The Pens agree to pay him a bunch of millions to stay with the club, and help out the club in every way possible….this is one of those ‘ways possible’. It’s not about what’s best for Letang, it’s about what’s best for the club.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM

        on the fact that they asked him to move to wing and he said no.

        and ill respond to everything else by simply saying Letang being our top defenseman is the best thing for this organization.

      • hockey412 - May 14, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        Ah – I can’t site a source on that, I’ve heard it a number of times though. It’s actually not the main point that I was trying to make, either – we can change that to ‘if they haven’t asked him, they should’ just as easy. And we certainly don’t have to agree on this, I think a lot of crowds would be 50/50. I don’t know that he’s consistently been the best d-man on the team (I said there are times that he is). Just looking at the prospects, what needs done to boost the club. Can’t change nothing.

      • hockey412 - May 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        most athletic *person…not people.

  9. snipedanglecelly13 - May 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    My wings don’t want letang, we want niskanan

    • pjblake2redwings - May 14, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      That is 100% true. The wings want Niskanan over Letang. When the Pens let him go to FA, I cant wait till Kenny Holland inks Niskanan to our top line with Kronwall

    • lbeezyse - May 14, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      Letang will be awfully hard to move for anything worth value. His contract in 2 years will be a boat anchor around a teams neck, much like Heatley has been for the Wild the past 2 years. But I think the Wild would love to bring Niskanan home to MN where he belongs.

      • har21441 - May 14, 2014 at 3:29 PM

        Letangs contract will actually be palatable in a few years, provided the cap continues to increase.

        His NTC may not prevent movement either – If I’m recalling, Letang has to supply a list of 10 teams he’s willing to go to each year. The list will most likely be contenders – maybe looking to add the final piece to their puzzle. While any picks in return will be low in the draft, they could get some value of an already skilled position player(s), which Letang would merit.

  10. biasedhomer - May 14, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    That contract really hurts Letang’s trade value. He already has major health issues. I would completely stay away from him, unless the Pens just want to dump him for nothing.

  11. earpaniac - May 14, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Their defense isn’t great, but what kills them is their 3rd-4th line. That’s why they lose games in the playoffs. They get almost nothing from them.

  12. nyrnashty - May 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Pens really don’t spend their money wisely and writers still expect them to win a cup every year even though they’re mostly a one-two line team.
    Crosby 8.7
    Malkin 9.5 (starting next year)
    Neal 5,
    Martin 5,
    Letang 7.25 (starting next year),
    Fleury 5,
    Scuderi 3.375 (LOL what?)
    Niskanen up for new contract which will be 5-6 per
    All on a 71 million cap.It’s kind of hard to be a good hockey team when your own front office doesn’t understand what a cap is and they way you need to spread the money.Compare the Pens to a 4th line like Bostons, which is probably best 4th line in hockey. Teams need a GM that gets the cap.

    • pepper2011 - May 14, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      I tried to point this out at the end of last season/ beginning of this season.

      Pens fans don’t get that you need 20+ guys to win in the playoffs.

      Or at least the ones who post on here…

      I was told Scuderi and Martin were Studs and 7.25m for Letang was a bargain. Matt Niskanen should make no more than 4 – 4.5m per year. He had one good year, but lets face it; when more than half the time you are on the ice (guessing) is with Sid or Malkin; your stats may be inflated. Guys should take a little less money to play with those guys not use them to inflate their
      contracts.
      Dupuis is a perfect example. The guy has scored OVER 20 goals in his career once. ONCE. He is 35 and they handed him 4 @ 3.75m. He wasn’t going to get that money somewhere else. I mean he is making virtually the same money as Kunitz who has (6) 20+ goal seasons.
      Jokinen has more 20 goal seasons than “Duper” probably could have extended him at less than Dupius is making and he’s 4 years younger.

      Also:
      Boychuck (3.3m) and Seidenberg (4m) combined make the same as Letang. lol.

      • har21441 - May 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        This falls on the front office. If Shero is building a team around Sid & Geno – and committing ~19 million to them alone – he needs to draft capable wingers that would not have the cap hit like an established veteran would.

        I know Niskanan is on D, but his situation is what the Pens need to do with wingers – acquire them at a low cost via draft or trade, develop them to their best ability, and (unlike Niskanan) move them at the deadline of their last contract year to a contender for more picks or young wingers.

        The current strategy of drafting Defense and hoping the Brian Gibbons of the world can play along side Sid is going to continue to fail them.

      • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 11:29 PM

        the bruins just lost so congrats on your awesome salary structuring.

      • pepper2011 - May 15, 2014 at 9:30 AM

        lol. You neglected to mention that they have been to the Cup 2/4 years (now). I’ll take it. I obviously wanted more, but they will be right in it again next year. Pens… not so much.

        Nice troll attempt though. Hard to really call out the Bruins when they’ve played more hockey in May and June than just about any other team and certainly more than the Pens.

      • c9castine - May 15, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        oh really?? good logic.

        whose the last team to go to back to back finals and not too long ago?

        how much does that mean now?

        means nothing. second time they have won the presidents trophy in recent memory and been bounced in the first or second round. then there was the 0-3 philly collapse.

        bruins have just as much playoff failure and success as the Penguins do.

        its really ridiculous for you guys to sit here and act like you have some sort of secret awesome winning formula that other teams dont. you rode all year long on what? getting to the final last year? only to win a presidents and get eliminated in the second round.

        ok. great job signing a couple hack defenseman.

      • pepper2011 - May 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

        What Hack defensemen? I don’t get it…

        Not making excuses. I thought they could have done more at the deadline; which is what I think you mean…With Potter and Mezsaros…

        Bartowski, Miller, Hamilton and Krug were all developed and had been signed or drafted a couple years earlier.

        Losing Seidenberg & Mcquaid hurt them because they were replaced by rookies and not veterans. I thought Hamilton showed he is going to be Chara’s replacement and Krug showed his playoffs last year wasn’t a fluke. Bart and Miller seemed a bit over matched.

        you really just make stuff up.

        The Bruins do have a formula and it’s a very good one. The Pens won’t be anywhere near a chance at the Cup anytime in the next few years. B’s will be there again.

      • c9castine - May 15, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        that remains to be seen. i thought you would have learned this year that talking about the future like its set in stone gets you nothing.

        like i said, pens clearly have some issues that need to be sorted. but there is still ALOT there. bruins are a good team. they have good players. hopefully their young guys are ready to take more control because Chara is winding down. he wont admit it and itll be hard for boston to admit it as well, but he is not what he used to be. when you get past chara, seidenberg, and boychuk, your defense is pretty questionable/ and or young. and lets be honest, that showed in the playoffs. i do think you guys have a real good one in dougie hamilton though. krug is an up and down player. good, but has some un-bruinlike flaws.

        i think rask is maybe the best goalie in the world although the last couple weeks Henrik defended his mountain.

        your forwards are a little top heavy too….milan lucic makes 6 mil? good player, but i dont know about that. brad marchand 4.5 he did nothing. krejci is usually pretty clutch but he disappeared. bergeron disappeared. not saying thats it, its going to happen everytime now. but well. i once thought like that.

        your window to truly contend may have closed a little bit unless some changes are made. im not making stuff up actually, although they are differently built teams…i speak from experience.

        seguin for eriksson may have been a bad trade. seguin grows up a little bit, has one of the best seasons in the NHL this year. eriksson is a fine player but can he stay healthy? can he play bruin hockey?

      • pepper2011 - May 15, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        I don’t think the Bruins are Top heavy at all. Eriksson was on their 3rd line and so was Soderberg. The third line was their best. If anything they are too balanced. They need a guy who can score. And not Seguin. He doesn’t have it. He will never. The guy will not take a hit, and that doesn’t work when it counts.

        The trade works for both teams. Dallas will keep skating in as the 7th or 8th seed and get eliminated in rd 1.

        Chara is winding down, but still better than most teams #1. People act like he is slowing down. He has always been slow. Being paired with a 20 year old probably didn’t help that appearance.

        The Bruins have more depth at D than almost any team in the league or you are not giving the Habs any credit. Miller, Bartkowski and Krug were all rookies and this was Hamilton’s first full year. They have 3-4 more guys in providence that could (develop) be 5 or 6 dmen on most teams. Mcquaid is a good defensemen. They are Five solid in: Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Krug, Hamilton. that leaves about 5 guys battling for the 6th spot (now) in Bartowski, Miller, Morrow, Warsofsky & Trotman. Arneson should ready in 2-3 more years.

        Lucic and Marchand contracts aren’t bad at all. They are both 25 and have both scored 25-30 goals multiple times. Not a great series against MTL, but he had his best and most consistent season.

        Eriksson looked great after he recovered. Everyone seems to forget he has put up 70pts in 3 of the previous 4 seasons. He played most of the season hurt or in a system that was unfamiliar. He will be fine. Might not hit 70 again in the B’s system, but 50-60pts is more than believable. He hadn’t had injury problems before this year and he got hit with two dirty hits… tough luck

        B’s also have the Chips to go get a pure goal scorer.

        Here is my call: B’s go after Hall and get the guy they wanted to draft.

        Edmonton has a ton of young offensive talent and are real weak in net and D.

        B’s have a ton of D depth (they had a bad series, but these rookies basically carried them to a Presidents trophy) and Goaltending.

        I am sure they could make some combination of the following guys and land him: Boychuk, Subban, Bartkowski, Marchand, Khokhlachev, Morrow, Mcquaid, Spooner, Kelly, or Camara

    • c9castine - May 14, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      best 4th line in hockey just got eliminated.

  13. pdmjr - May 14, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Letang isn’t going anywhere, as for Nikanen he is good shooting the puck but terrible in front of the net. With the Dmen the Pens have in the organization there are plenty of good choice.

    Martin Letang Scuderi Poliott Despres Matta and Bortuzzo should be the makeup.

  14. 2qswing - May 14, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    That contract is un trade-able even it he agrees to move. And don’t assume Niskanen is an easy re-sign. Lots of teams will be interested and he will test the market.

  15. steelhammer92 - May 14, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    I’d like to see what Letang can do under a coach who doesn’t live and die by the stretch pass. He has plenty of talent and is still young.

  16. petersteelewannabe - May 14, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Huge cap hit? Deficient defensively? May have to retire due to health? …too bad Homer isn’t running things in Philly anymore or the phone would be ringing as you read this.

  17. flyboystransport - May 14, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Never getting moved with that cap hit

  18. bcisleman - May 14, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    The only way this makes sense is to free up cap space. That means prospects in return. Using the Islanders as a case in point (I don’t really see this happening) PIT might take RHD Villa Pokka and another piece in return. They might use the cap space to go after Markov or Boyle for a 1-2 year deal until Pokka is ready.

  19. gbart22 - May 14, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    Makes me laugh with Martin. Just a few seasons ago they were blasting his signing and wanting him gone and booing him like there was no tomorrow, I was there! Now they want to give him the C and extend him. Amazing. Fans are morons and thank god get nowhere near running an actual team.

  20. nomad57 - May 14, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    Letang for a top 5 goalie please.

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