With Evgeni Malkin now locked up to a new 8 year extenson, all eyes turn to Kris Letang.
Letang, 26, will have the opportunity to become one of the highest paid defensemen in the league, but if he has his sights set on that type of money, it won’t be coming from the Penguins.
General Managers around the league are certainly intrigued about Letang possibly becoming available leading up to the draft or later this year, and Penguins GM Ray Shero is already getting calls similar to Jordan Staal last off-season, where teams are making it known that they are interested were Shero to make Letang available.
The first step for the Penguins will be gauging Letang’s demands and intentions. Shero has yet to open up discussions with agent Kent Hughes, although indications out of the organization is that talks are likely to begin next week following the Penguins pro scouting meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
“Probably not fair for me to speculate on it as I haven’t had a conversation with his agent,” Shero said today of Kris Letang. “We’ll certainly turn our attention to Kris here over next little bit and see where we are and have those conversations and see exactly if were on the same ballpark here and what we’re thinking. He’s certainly a key player for us, he’s a young player and i do believe that his best days are ahead of him,” Shero said. “It’s hard for me exactly to know what Kris’ intentions are until I get into some sort of discussions with the agent and Kris.”
Internal discussions are already on-going between Shero and assistant GM Jason Botteril and one scenario expected to be deeply discussed throughout the organization is listening to offers for Letang were the Penguins to quickly get the feeling that Letang’s demands are truly in the $7-$8 million range that some say his camp is already putting out there.
Another sticking point in talks could be a full no movement clause, something the Penguins are said to be leery about in the event of dishing out another seven to eight year contract.
“I want to try to get to Kris and see exactly what they have in mind and to see whether or not that’s going to work for us and then try to make some decision,” Shero said. “If we don’t have a deal by the draft, does that mean we are trading him? I can’t speculate that. I don’t even know. I never want to say a player won’t be traded or will never be traded. It’s hard to do that.
Early chatter I’m getting on Letang is that the Penguins will look to keep the cap hit in the $5.8 to $6.25 million range and anything pushing the $6.5 million range will put Letang’s future in Pittsburgh in serious jeopardy.
Coming up through the system, the Penguins have one defensemen who resembles the type of skating ability and skill Letang possesses and that’s Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins first round pick in 2012. Pouliot, though, is considered to be at least two years away from being a regular NHL defenseman.
When looking at the top-10 highest paid defensemen for next season, Weber, Suter and Chara are truly on another level and Letang doesn’t warrant Sutter, Weber or Chara money, but he clearly belongs in the next group, 4-10.
HIGHEST PAID DEFENSEMEN FOR 2013-2014
1. Shea Weber – $14,000,000
2. Ryan Suter – $12,000,000
3. Zdeno Chara – $8,000,000
4. Duncan Keith – $7,650,000
5. Brian Campbell – $7,142,875
6. Chris Pronger – $7,000,000
7. Drew Doughty – $6,700,000
8. Dan Boyle – $6,666,666
9. Jay Bouwmeester – $6,600,000
10. Jason Garrison – $6,500,000