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Penguins have clarification heading into the off-season
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero is drawing praise around the league today for locking up 22 year old defenseman Kris Letang to a 4 year deal worth $14 million.
Did the Penguins over-pay for the short-term? That’s up for debate as the deal is a win for Letang and his agent Kent Hughes who went into talks last August seeking upwards of $3.25 million per season.
One general thought is that Letang had all the leverage due to the possibility of receiving a offer sheet that the Penguins couldn’t match.
However, It is hard to find a league executive who actually thought there was even a remote chance of Letang receiving a offer sheet worth more than $3.5 million per season.
Under Ray Shero the Penguins are fair negotiators who do not lowball their players and they set a fix number on a player in negotiations.
Shero who called Letang one of the better young defenseman in the game today, felt that Letang was worth Brett Seabrook type of money, who is another young defenseman by comparison that previously signed a 3 year deal worth $3.5 million per season with the Blackhawks.
For Letang it was important for him to get a deal done before the playoffs as Letang admitted today that the trade deadline was a “nerve raking” time for him.

Letang who declined a multi-year deal in February worth slightly more than $3 million per season was weighing the option of waiting until after the playoffs to begin serious negotiations, with the opportunity to raise his stock with a strong playoff run.
The Penguins made it known to Letang’s camp throughout the 5-6 month process that they valued Letang at $3.25-$3.5 million per season on a 4-5 year deal and that number was not going to increase.
By waiting until after the season, the NHL entry draft would have been another nerve raking time for Letang. The decision to take the Penguins offer was a smart decision by Letang’s camp.
As for the Penguins they now have clarification heading into the off-season. Letang’s cap number is hard to take for the short-term but Pittsburgh now goes into the off-season with less uncertainty and getting the Letang situation resolved was their No. 1 priority.
The Letang signing did not increase the likelihood of Sergei Gonchar returning by any means but from one standpoint, it helps the Penguins situation in that they can now go into the Gonchar talks with a fixed number.

Penguins news and notes

*Sidney Crosby and Alexei Ponikarovsky will remain together on a line against the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night. When the Penguins acquired Ponikarovsky, the intention was for Ponikarovsky to play with Evgeni Malkin but Malkin’s injury has opened the door for Ponikarovsky to become a fixture on Crosby’s left wing.
Ponikarovsky-Crosby and Pascal Dupuis opened up Tuesday’s practice together but who plays on Crosby’s right wing Wednesday night will likely be a right wing by comittee.
Dan Bylsma used Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko on Crosby’s right wing during lines rushes today as Bylsma continues to experiment with his lines in the absence of Malkin.
*Evgeni Malkin took a step forward in today’s practice but just went through the motions and will not play against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Going into this week the plan has been to hold Malkin out of the lineup until the weekend who remained limited due to a right foot/ankle injury.
*Sergei Gonchar missed 3 games due to strep throat and expects to play tomorrow night. Gonchar was paired with Mark Eaton in practice today and participated fully.

Devils lose in overtime; Pens in 1st place

The New Jersey Devils lost to the Boston Bruins on a late second goal in overtime Tuesday night. The Devils gained a point but remain in second place with no games in hand on Pittsburgh. The Penguins enter Wednesday’s game with 95 points and hold a 1 point edge over the Devils.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres trail the Penguins by 1 point for the No. 2 seed and have a game in hand.
East Standings
z – Washington 76GP-49-15-12-110 pts
x – Pittsburgh 76GP-44-25-7-95 pts
x – Buffalo 75GP-42-23-10-94 pts
x – New Jersey 76GP-44-26-6-94 pts
Ottawa 77GP-42-30-5-89 pts
Philadelphia 76GP-38-32-6-82 pts
Montreal 76GP-37-31-8-82 pts
Boston 76GP-35-29-12-82 pts
——————————-
Atlanta 77GP-34-31-12-80 pts
NY Rangers 76GP 34-32-10-78 pts

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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