Heading into next season, Kris Letang will be looking to replicate his performance from last season, where he set career-highs in assists (58) and points (68). The Pittsburgh Penguins' top defenseman has been one of the best blue liners in the league over the past decade but has yet to claim the elusive James Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's best defenseman each year.
The Penguins defenseman has finished in the top ten eight times in his career, including three of the past four seasons. Letang has been a Norris Trophy finalist one time in 2013 when he finished third in the voting. With two months remaining before the start of the 2022-23 season, Letang has the ninth best odds to bring home the Norris Trophy, according to PointsBet Sportsbook.
Letang is currently +2500 to win the award, the same odds as Detroit Red Wings youngster Moritz Seider and Stars blue liner Miro Heiskanen. Last year's winner, Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, has the best odds to win (+175). Former Norris Trophy winners Roman Josi (+600) and Victor Hedman (+750) round out the top three.
While Letang's numbers are comparable to the rest of the top ten, the one thing that separates him is age. Letang will be 35 years old next season, three years older than the next oldest defenseman with top ten odds. However, his age doesn't rule out a run at his first Norris.
In 2019, Mark Giordano won his first Norris Trophy at 35. Giordano scored 17 goals and 74 points for the Calgary Flames that season, earning him 165 of the 171 first place votes. However, one thing Giordano didn't have to contend with was the wave of young top-tier defensemen like Seider, Heiskanen, Makar, and Adam Fox.
While he is considered one of the greatest defensemen of all time, Nicklas Lidstrom won four of his seven Norris Trophies after turning 35.
The Penguins showed their faith in Letang's ability to beat father time earlier this summer, signing him to a six-year contract extension. Letang is regarded as one of the hardest working athletes in hockey. His focus on health and conditioning is a large part of why Letang has been able to handle playing over 25 minutes a night in seven of the past eight seasons.
Last season was one of the best of Kris Letang's career, but he'll have to do more to climb up the ranks of the best NHL defenseman next season. Letang would become the second Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Norris Trophy after Randy Carlyle won the award in 1981.
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