Latest Pens Buzz (Daily 5)

Rumblings, Musings, & Opinions

Kris Letang is the Penguins biggest storyline in 2018-2019 because of him being such an unknown of whether Letang getting back into that top-10 to top-12 hemisphere among the best d-men in hockey is even possible for him anymore.

This time of the year and when training camp opens is all about feel good stories.

Buckle up for them.

There’s probably going to be 10-12 ‘Kris Letang is primed for a big bounce back season’ stories out there if not already, ‘Kris Letang is in the best shape of his life’ (the annual training camp storyline in every sport) and so on.

Give it three days into camp and one of the local publications in town will be calling Jack Johnson a ‘great signing and perfect fit’.

But, what is reality of what to expect from Letang in 2018-2019?

Turning 32 in April and the wear and tear his body has taken, it’s more likely than not that Letang’s peak of being a No. 1 caliber top-10 defenseman in the NHL is over.

Based on the limited amount of trade interest in Letang this summer, that’s how Letang is seen around the league.

That doesn’t mean Letang won’t and can’t be an impact player anymore.

Pittsburgh just needs him to play like a very good No. 2 defenseman, not at the third-pairing level he was at for stretches last season, most notably in the postseason.

2. Will less minutes actually happen for Letang and would it lead to less mental mistakes?

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has said multiple times this summer that limiting Letang’s ice time is a top priority for the upcoming season.

Among the tidbits from Rutherford this summer that were eyepopping was the notion that tailoring back Letang’s ice time will lead to less mistakes.

That’s an interesting take for a player who carries the 7th highest cap hit in the NHL this season among defenseman.

The start of the regular season will tell the story of whether the coaching staff has it in them to decrease Letang’s minutes to 22-23 a night.

Coming off a major neck injury, the coaches threw Letang to the wolves last October in playing him over 26 minutes a game through the first 13 games of the season. Letang was a minus-14 in the first month of the 2017-2018 season. He also appeared in three back-to-backs that month, a regret in the organization where they now believe the team should have been much more cautious with Letang to start last season.

Letang has been a 25 minute per game defenseman since the 2010-2011 season. He’s wired to play heavy minutes. Trying to drop his minutes now would also be an adjustment for him.

Rutherford was quoted in June as saying “when Letang plays less is when he plays better.”

Problem with that belief is that there’s no proof yet that backs it yet.

Letang’s best stretch defensively, maybe in his career, was at certain points during the 2016 playoff run when Letang averaged 28 minutes a night that postseason.

3. Was a Letang to Vegas trade discussed in late June?

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4. Division rival to monitor Brassard situation……..

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5. — Jack Johnson was on the Penguins radar months before July 1. Prior to the Brassard trade, Pittsburgh and [hide] Columbus had spoken about an Ian Cole – Jack Johnson type swap, league sources say. There was a hockey trade to be made but it would have been costly for the Penguins in draft pick compensation to get Columbus to retain a dime of Johnson’s salary.

If Johnson was on the Penguins last spring, there’s a belief from some in the organization they would have beat the Capitals. This is not a majority opinion by any means but that’s how high a few prominent members of the organization are on Johnson……..[/hide]