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Insider Only Gonchar remains top priority

Letang not biting on short-term offer
Contract talks with pending free agent Sergei Gonchar have been on-going since Penguins GM Ray Shero and J.P. Barry, the agent for Gonchar, held their first set of substantive talks during the Penguins Western Canada road trip in mid-Janaury.
A meeting in Pittsburgh did not happen this weekend between the two sides, but negotiations have been described as “productive” according to a source close to Gonchar.
Shero and J.P. Barry intend to hold extensive talks leading up and into the Olympic break, with Pittsburgh currently focused on a three year deal.
Penguins GM Ray Shero is truthful that the teams’ priority is to retain Gonchar and young defenseman Kris Letang but Pittsburgh’s top priority is to keep Sergei Gonchar, even if it might be at the expense of Letang.
Sources tell me Pittsburgh’s cap projections for the next two seasons can withstand a Letang/Gonchar combined cap hit of around $7.5 million. Any higher is stretching it.
While Pittsburgh’s focus has been on Sergei Gonchar of late, Letang and his agent Kent Hughes are playing a crucial role in the Gonchar negotiations.

Pittsburgh has approached Letang’s camp with a short-term deal and few numbers being thrown around have been a 2 year – $5 million offer and 3 years – $8.25 million.
According to sources in the organization, this is a best case scenario for Pittsburgh, with the intention to sign Gonchar for around $5 million per season and keep Letang around on a short-term deal for what his actual value currently is.
Then at age 25, Letang will be in position to get his “Ryan Whitney deal”, if he continues his development towards what many expect it to be.
However, Letang’s camp is not biting on the Penguins short-term offer. They are still holding out for upwards of $3.75 million per season on a four or five year deal.
Pittsburgh regards Letang as a future high end No. 2 defenseman but just not at this point in his development. They are not in the cap situation to give him a Ryan Whitney type of deal ($6 years – $24 million).
For the first time, I am actually buying some of the Letang trade talk but there are doubts that a legitimate offer is out there to enhance Pittsburgh to move him.
Pittsburgh’s asking price is an impact forward and top tier prospect. They are not engaged in any kind of serious talks to this point.
Unless a significant offer comes Pittsburgh’s way, which is questionable, negotiations with Letang will go into the summer, when he will become a restricted free agent.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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