Regardless of how contract talks go between the Penguins and Kris Letang leading up to next Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft, the decision coming out of the Penguins organizational Meetings is that it’s going to take a significant offer for the Penguins to move Letang on draft weekend.
Letang and the Penguins have yet to engage into substantive contract talks but Penguins GM Ray Shero and Letang’s agent Kent Hughes expect to meet in Boston tomorrow, though no serious negotiations are expected.
With Letang not expected to try to force a trade out of Pittsburgh like Jordan Staal did last off-season when he made it clear to Penguin officials that he would only sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, the message inquiring General Managers are getting from the Penguins is that they have no urgency to move Letang yet, NHL sources say.
That said, trade inquiries into Letang will only continue leading up to draft weekend and the Penguins will certainly have an open mind on moving Letang if the right offer comes their way.
One team to keep an eye on is the Anaheim Ducks who covet Letang and league chatter is that the Ducks could be prepared to make a significant play for Letang on draft weekend. I’m hearing despite the huge financial commitments Anaheim made to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the money would be there to lock up Letang long-term and the Ducks have just one defenseman signed through the 2014-2015 season.
Who would be the top names to watch?
Bobby Ryan is in play for a top-4 defenseman or No. 2 centerman, but word last summer is that the Penguins are not huge fans of Ryan who is under contract for two more seasons with a cap hit of $5.1 million. Ryan, though, would be an excellent fit on Sidney Crosby’s right wing.
If talks between the Penguins and Ducks were to get serious, here’s three other names NHL sources say that would likely be key talking points in discussions:
1. John Gibson, Goaltender – Being a Pittsburgh native would have nothing to do with the Penguins potential interest, but Gibson is without doubt a top goaltending prospect who some scouts feel has franchise goaltender potential. With Pittsburgh’s long term goaltending situation suddenly in question, Gibson would be very attractive to the Penguins.
2. Luca Sbisa, Defenseman – Penguin scouts have long held Sbisa in high regard who is under contract through the 2014-2015 season with a cap hit of $2.175 million. Sbisa, just 23 years old, is a solid all-around defenseman and a player the Penguins could immediately plug into a No. 2 pairing role. Sbisa’s offensive game has taken off in Bruce Boudreau’s system with 7 goals in 41 games this season.
3. Emerson Etem, Winger – The Penguins gave serious consideration to drafting Emerson Etem with the 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft, but had a slightly higher grade on Beau Bennett. In the 2010 draft, Pittsburgh had their sights set on Vladimir Tarasenko who they tried to trade up for, Bennett and Etem at the forward position. Evaluators who watched Etem in the playoffs feel he has star potential and nabbing Etem in a potential Kris Letang deal would give the Penguins three very good young wingers around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for years to come in James Neal, Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem.
Trade Scenarios (Excluding Draft Picks): (Pick 1 or 2) – Sound off in the comments forum
No. 1 Trade Scenario: Anaheim Receives: Kris Letang
Pittsburgh Receives: Bobby Ryan, Luca Sbisa
No. 2: Anaheim Receives: Kris Letang,
Pittsburgh Receives: John Gibson, Luca Sbisa, Emerson Etem