Kris Letang has dominated the headlines for the Pittsburgh Penguins all off-season. Why wouldn't he, considering the importance that he has had to their organization for the past 16 years. However, it seems as if the contract saga between Letang and the Penguins could be reaching its' final stages heading into NHL Draft week.
The Penguins have remained open about their desire to bring Letang back all summer. They have even gone as far as to point out that he is their number one priority over Evgeni Malkin.
Over the weekend, Sportsnet's Elliotte Freidman reported that teams interested in Kris Letang "see a path to a Penguins extension." Friedman also quoted his anonymous league source, saying that the Penguins are willing to go into "uncomfortable territory" to strike a deal with Letang.
The uncomfortable territory could mean a couple of different things in this situation. It could mean adding extra years for a player who will already be 35 years old at the impetus of the deal, or it could mean the salary cap space they are willing to attribute to Letang. There is also a factor of which movement clauses are included as Letang may want some say in any possible trade destinations in the future.
One thing that we have gotten some clarification on is the price. NHL insider David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period said that the Penguins and Letang made progress late last week, narrowing the money to between $7-$8 million per year.
Coming off of a contract that paid him $7.25 million per season, it seems that Letang could be lining up a slight pay increase that would follow what we saw from Bryan Rust earlier in the summer. As the premier right-handed puck-moving defenseman on the free-agent market this summer, anything under $9 million would be a discount for the Montreal native.
That leaves term and clauses to figure out between these two sides. According to The Athletic's Pierre Lebrun, Penguins general manager Ron Hextall started negotiations with Letang and Malkin at two-year deals, which was a non-starter for both men. Most project Letang to be looking for something between four and five years to walk him to his age 40 season and presumably, retire as a Penguin.
The NHL Draft can be a busy time for general managers looking to sculpt their roster before the opening of the free-agent market. With the Draft being just two days away and the Penguins looking at this off-season as a sequential process, the team may push to finish this negotiation before draft time. Look for more news on Letang's status in the coming days.
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