Are Kris Letang’s days in Pittsburgh numbered? Just like Jordan Staal a year ago, the Penguins defenseman is entering the final year of his contract and will be looking for a substantial raise; a raise helped by being named a Norris Trophy finalist this past season.
The negotiations are still in the early stages between Letang’s agent and Penguins general manager Ray Shero, with last report being no numbers having been exchanged yet. But with the NHL Draft this coming weekend and all 30 GMs in attendance in Newark, Shero’s phone and ear will be busy from his colleagues kicking the tires wondering just exactly the price would be for the 26-year old Letang.
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, that price would be a roster player, a first-round pick and a top prospect, or two roster players if there isn’t a preferred prospect available. Rossi reported Thursday that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be a place Letang would be happy to go to if a trade was the end result.
Letang does not have a full- or limited-movement clause in his contract, and he has not requested a trade.
He reiterated Wednesday that his focus is on working out a new contract with the Penguins.
However, Toronto has emerged as a potential destination if there is a breaking point with the Penguins, the sources said.
That package would be similar to what Shero got for Staal last year a day after the now-Carolina Hurricanes center reportedly rejected a 10-year, $60 million offer from the Penguins. Of course, Staal had an eye on joining brother Eric in Carolina. Letang would prefer to stay in Pittsburgh, but with the Penguins' cap situation, would he be willing to leave plenty of money on the table to take a discount and stay, thereby allowing Shero to build a stronger team?
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Now comes the question for Shero: does he pull the trigger on a trade before next season begins if an extension can't be worked out, or does he (and Letang, for that matter) go into a potential lame duck season?
There's no rush to get something done at the Draft this weekend. The Penguins don't pick until No. 77 overall, but the summer is shaping up to be a busy one with GMs wheeling and dealing. Shero can take his time trying to lock in Letang to something long-term, while at the same time scoping trade possibilities if things go sour.
Once numbers begin getting exchanged between Letang's camp and Shero, that's when the fun, or fireworks, will start.
And while waiting for the Letang negotiations to really get going, the Penguins announced they've re-signed Chris Kunitz to a 3-year, $11.55 million extension. It's a modest raise from the $3.725 million he'll make in 2013-14 and a signal to soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Pascal Dupuis that they want to bring back that top line that was so effective last season.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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