The Pittsburgh Penguins and defenseman Kris Letang have agreed to a four year extension worth $14 million.
Letang will have a cap hit of $3.5 million through the 2013-2014 season.
Contract talks with Letang are believed to have picked up following the March 3rd trade deadline, after negotiations with veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar went nowhere.
The deal is a win for Letang and his agent Kent Hughes who initially went into contract talks last August seeking upwards of $3.25 million per season.
In recent weeks, getting the Kris Letang contract situation resolved has been tabbed as priority No. 1 for Penguins management as the Penguins have 9 unrestricted free agents this summer. With the Letang signing, Pittsburgh has $44.5 million committed to 14 players for the 2010-2011 season.
Does the Kris Letang signing mean the end of Sergei Gonchar’s career in Pittsburgh?

In all likelyhood yes. Since mid-January Pittsburgh made a strong attempt to lockup Gonchar and put Kris Letang on the backburner which frustrated Letang’s camp.
Gonchar’s agent J.P. Barry proposed offers of 3 years – $15 million and 4 years – $18.25 million during the olympic break, which Pittsburgh indicated that they just couldn’t come close to.
Prior to talks officialy breaking off in early March, Pittsburgh had 8 months to strike a deal with Gonchar and there was never any kind of progress in talks as Gonchar has not come off of his asking price.
Unless Gonchar is surprisingly willing to take a deal in the low $3 million range, Pittsburgh will likely shop his rights during the draft.

Official Press release on Kris Letang

Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Kris Letang to a four-year contract extension, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The new contract goes into effect at the start of the 2010-11 season and will run through 2013-14. Letang, 22, has played 211 career NHL games in three-plus seasons with Pittsburgh, totaling 79 points on 21 goals and 58 assists.
This season, the 6-foot, 201-pound defenseman has set a new single-season career high with 24 assists while recording 27 points. Letang has seen his role expand with added time on the team’s power play and penalty killing units. He ranks second among the Penguins’ defensemen (and third overall) with an average of 21:30 minutes per game.
Letang was a major contributor to the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup championship. During Pittsburgh’s title run, Letang was the NHL’s third leading scorer among defensemen with 13 points (4G-9A). His shining moment occurred in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington. Letang nearly missed the game with an injury, but suited up and scored the overtime winning goal (his first career playoff goal) to help the Penguins avoid a 3-0 series deficit, and inject the team with new life.
The Montreal, Quebec native was originally drafted by the Penguins in the third round (62nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Letang saw his first NHL action at just 19 years old when he appeared in seven games and scored two goals for the Penguins during the 2006-07 season.
Letang won back-to-back gold medals with Canada at the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Champions, and was captain of the 2007 team. He was named one of Canada’s top three players on the 2007 squad after tying for second in tournament scoring among defensemen with six points (6A).
With today’s signing, the Penguins now have locked up a strong core of their young players. The Penguins now have mulit-year contracts with Sidney Crosby (through 2012-13), Jordan Staal (2012-13), Evgeni Malkin (2013-14), Brooks Orpik (2013-14) Letang (2013-14) and Marc-Andre Fleury (2014-15).