Posts Tagged ‘kris letang’

The Pittsburgh Penguins may be in jeopardy of losing two franchise icons to unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Evgeni Malkin and the Pens have not been talking regularly after engaging in initial discussions when the club’s season ended May 15, sources told The Athletic’s Josh Yohe. Numerous agents and some people within the organization reportedly believe it’s unlikely Malkin returns.

Meanwhile, the Penguins have offered Kris Letang a three-year contract, but the star defenseman wants a five-year deal with a cap hit north of $8 million per year, Yohe reports.

It was previously reported Malkin is willing to take a pay cut after earning $9.5 million annually on his last contract, but how much remains to be seen. Letang, meanwhile, is seeking a raise after making $7.25 million per year on his previous deal.

Both players are still playing at a high level despite being in their mid-30s. Malkin, who will turn 36 in July, recorded 42 points in 41 games in 2021-22 after missing the first half of the campaign due to offseason knee surgery. Letang, who turned 35 in April, finished seventh in Norris Trophy voting after posting a career-best 68 points.

Malkin, the 2012 Hart Trophy and 2009 Conn Smythe winner, ranks third in franchise history with 1,146 points in 981 games. Letang leads all Penguins defensemen with 650 points in 941 contests. Both players have spent 16 years with the team and have won three Stanley Cup titles.

The Penguins have $23.2 million in projected cap space, per CapFriendly, but Rickard Rakell and Evan Rodrigues are also UFAs, while Kasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen are RFAs.

One way Pittsburgh can clear cap space is by trading a defenseman, and Marcus PetterssonBrian Dumoulin, and John Marino are all candidates, according to Yohe. Pettersson, who has three years remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $4.025 million, is reportedly the most likely to go. The organization believes 22-year-old Pierre-Olivier Joseph is ready for a full-time NHL role, and he and Pettersson both play the left side.

The Pittsburgh Penguins want Kris Letang back in the fold beyond next season.

Signing the talented defenseman to a multi-year contract is the club’s top priority, reports The Athletic’s Rob Rossi.

The Penguins’ new owners, Fenway Sports Group, reportedly want to secure both Letang and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Evgeni Malkin for the duration of their careers, seeing their retention as a means to ensure Sidney Crosby retires as a member of the team as well.

Letang established career highs with 58 assists and 68 points this season. The 35-year-old has played his entire 16-year career with the Penguins, playing a pivotal role in two of their three Stanley Cup championships in that span.

The Penguins’ management group has repeatedly expressed its desire to re-sign both Letang and Malkin. The two stars have also stated they’d like to stay. Crosby is under contract through 2024-25. The trio has been together for all of Letang’s 16 seasons, the longest run by three teammates in NHL history.

In January, it was reported Letang was looking for a raise on his next contract. The Montreal-born rearguard will be coming off an eight-year deal carrying a cap hit of $7.25 million.

Pittsburgh has approximately $23 million in cap space. The club’s other pending UFAs include trade-deadline acquisition Rickard Rakell, fellow forward Evan Rodrigues, and backup goaltender Casey DeSmithKasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen are the team’s pending RFAs.

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall wants to find a way to have Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang stay with the club for the rest of their careers.

“In a perfect world (Malkin) retires a Penguin,” Hextall said Monday. “And I think Tanger’s the same.”

In a perfect world, anyway.

The NHL in the salary-cap era is hardly that.

Perhaps that’s why, when Hextall was asked what was missing this season from a group that let a 3-1 lead slip a way in a first-round loss to the New York Rangers, he joked “a little more cap space would be great.”

He’s not getting it.

The Penguins have habitually spent up to the cap limit during the hugely successful era led by Malkin, Letang and longtime captain Sidney Crosby. That “spend to win now” approach is not going to change with Fenway Sports Group now signing the checks after buying the club from Ron Burkle and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux last fall.

The question, however, is how much money the Penguins are willing to offer a pair of 35-year-old franchise icons who are less than two months away from entering free agency for the first time.

Letang hardly appears to have lost a step. The defenseman is coming off a season in which he collected a career-high 68 points while playing a bit more responsibly in his own end. He averaged a staggering 25:47 of ice time and said last week he’d like to play at least five more seasons.

Letang also is finishing a contract that paid him $7.25 million a season. Considering his fitness level and his production, it’s reasonable to think he’d command a bit of a raise on the open market, though Letang said last week his preference would be to find a way to stay in Pittsburgh.

Malkin feels likewise, but his situation is thornier. He said “good players sign good contracts” last week and while he scored 20 goals this season despite missing nearly half of the year while recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, he was not particularly effective in 5-on-5 situations while commanding $9.5 million. He also turns 36 in July and has missed at least 10 games due to injuries nine times in his last 10 seasons.

Hextall stressed he would not provide details on the nature of the team’s talks with Malkin and Letang, but hinted he’s not concerned about their age.

“They’re both great athletes,” he said. “They both have been here a long time. They’re both performing at a high level right now. We’d certainly like to have them in the mix come September.”

Malkin and Letang’s respective statuses are the two biggest pieces of a very unwieldy puzzle Hextall has to piece together over the summer. Forwards Evan Rodrigues, Brian Boyle, Rickard Rickell and backup goaltender Casey DeSmith are set to become free agents while forwards Danton Heinen and the enigmatic Kasperi Kapanen are restricted free agents.

Hextall did lock down one piece of the puzzle, signing forward Bryan Rust to a six-year deal over the weekend that will keep the versatile two-time Stanley Cup winner in the fold through 2028. Rust, who had 24 goals and 34 assists this season, underwent what Hextall called a minor procedure on one of his knees recently but should be ready well ahead of training camp.

By then Hextall will have clarity on his team’s immediate future. He believes he has it on its immediate past, praising the Penguins for their resiliency during an eventful season that included extended absences by Crosby and Malkin and a COVID-19 outbreak. Pittsburgh managed to extend its playoff streak to 16 straight years, the longest active streak in major North American professional sports.

Yet the Penguins also haven’t made it out of the first round since 2018. That’s not the standard for a team that plays in an arena with five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters.

Six months into FSG’s tenure, there appears to be no hurry to make drastic changes, including in the front office. Hextall, who took over in February 2021 after Jim Rutherford’s abrupt resignation, appears as if he will get a chance to guide the team through at least the early stages of the twilight of Crosby’s Hall of Fame career.

“Everything is good,” Hextall said. “(Fenway Sports Group is) totally committed to winning. … We’ve got some things that we’re looking at in terms of adding to staff and stuff. We’re moving along.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby recognizes the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs could be the last opportunity for his club’s longtime core to chase a championship.

Teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are set for unrestricted free agency this summer.

“As much as you don’t want to think about it, it’s something that you understand could be a possibility,” Crosby told NHL.com’s Wes Crosby. “I think you just try to enjoy it as much as you can, and try to take it all in because you know it’s something that’s not going to last forever, whether it’s this year or down the road a little bit more.

“You only get to play for so long, so I think just trying to enjoy it and be grateful for the opportunity that we have to do it again.”

Crosby (34 years old), Malkin (35), and Letang (35) have been teammates for the past 16 seasons, qualifying for the playoffs each year and winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016, and 2017. The only campaign Crosby’s Penguins failed to reach the postseason was his rookie year in 2005-06, before Malkin and Letang debuted in the NHL.

Although they’re well into their 30s, the trio is still the engine that drives the Penguins.

2021-22 stats

PLAYERGPPTSATOI
Crosby688420:01
Malkin404018:25
Letang776725:48

Malkin currently carries a $9.5-million average annual value, while Letang earns $7.25 million per season. Both high-profile players could command big-ticket contracts on the open market, but the Penguins could attempt to retain the pair of superstars. Pittsburgh has more than $29 million in projected cap space this offseason, according to CapFriendly.

Crosby is signed through 2024-25 at a yearly cap hit of $8.7 million.

The Penguins currently sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points and one game remaining. The Washington Capitals are hot in pursuit of their archrivals with 100 points of their own and a game in hand.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang tested positive for COVID-19 and remains in protocol, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Monday, according to team reporter Michelle Crechiolo.

The Penguins placed Letang on the COVID-19 list Saturday after he returned a positive result. That result has since been confirmed and caused him to miss Pittsburgh’s 7-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry started Saturday’s contest after producing a false positive test last week.

Pittsburgh improved to 3-0-2 with the victory despite missing Sidney CrosbyEvgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust because of injuries and Letang and Jeff Carter due to COVID-19 protocol.

Letang, 34, recorded four assists while averaging 26:08 of ice time over the Penguins’ first four games of the season.

With three Stanley Cup championships, six All-Star appearances, and 863 NHL games under his belt (plus a whopping 142 playoff contests), Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has pretty much seen and done it all.

Well, not quite. There’s still one more thing the 34-year-old covets.

“Four,” Letang said, according to Mike DeFabo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, referring to the Stanley Cup.

“It doesn’t matter how many years I’m going to keep doing this,” he added. “I just want to do it for one reason – that’s to win every year.”

Entering the final year of an eight-year deal that carries an average annual value of $7.25 million, Letang’s feeling confident in a 2021-22 Pittsburgh team that held on to much of its core.

“I feel comfortable saying we have what we need to be successful, whether on the coaching staff or player-wise,” Letang said. “We have the group to do it.”

The right-handed shot has spent his NHL career with “brothers” Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and “of course” he’d certainly like to keep it that way.

“You hear about those guys who decide to go with another team trying to look for another Cup or bigger salaries,” Letang said. “The thing we built in Pittsburgh with Sid and Geno, I think it’s special. Obviously, there’s always an end to an era. I cannot predict when it’s going to be done.”

For now, things are looking good for the Penguins; Pittsburgh has made the playoffs in 15 straight seasons and finished at the top of the realigned East Division in 2020-21. However, the squad hasn’t advanced past the second round of the postseason since winning the Cup in 2016-17.

“At the end of the day, guys who have been together for 15-20 years – whatever it ends up being – is going to be on the small scale of the longevity of a franchise. You have to think about all the other years and you want to keep winning,” Letang said.

Ron Hextall doesn’t sound like someone who’s ready to hit the reset button.

The Pittsburgh Penguins general manager said Wednesday he believes in the team’s core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang and is in no hurry to move on to the franchise’s next chapter.

The East Division champions are smarting from a third straight first-round playoff exit — this time a six-game loss to the New York Islanders — but Hextall will spend his first offseason with the team retooling around Crosby, Malkin, and Letang rather than rebuilding.

“We see a future with this core,” Hextall said. “These guys have been here a long time. We had a good year. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core. It certainly didn’t give me pause to think about what we should do with this core.”

Hextall added he expects to have all three back next season “for sure.” The same apparently goes for goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Hextall, hired in February after Jim Rutherford’s abrupt resignation, expressed confidence in Jarry despite Jarry’s shaky playoff performance. Jarry’s ill-advised outlet pass in Game 5 led directly to Josh Bailey’s game-winning overtime goal. He followed it up by allowing five goals in Game 6 as Pittsburgh’s season came to an abrupt halt.

“You saw what happened in Game 5, an unfortunate error there. And then Game 6 wasn’t the best. But I don’t think we would have been where we were without Tristan and we all have to remember Tristan is a young player,” he said. “He’s going to learn from this and he’s going to come back better in September.”

As will coach Mike Sullivan. Hextall said he and president of hockey operations Brian Burke are in sync with the two-time Stanley Cup winner. Sullivan emphasizes speed and skill in his approach, something Hextall doesn’t plan to get away from while allowing the Penguins might benefit a bit from a bigger lineup.

“Of course we’d like to add a little bit of size, a little bit of toughness. Yes, it would be nice,” Hextall said. “But there’s not a lot out there. We’ll look at what’s there this summer and we’ll make adjustments. But if we go into next season with this group we’re comfortable.”

That includes focusing on players who can make an immediate impact with Crosby, Malkin, and Letang all in their mid-30s. Hextall stressed the team remains in “win-now” mode heading into 2021-22. Pittsburgh’s streak of 15 consecutive postseason berths is the longest active streak in major North American professional sports.

“We’re comfortable with our team,” Hextall said. “We had a real good regular season and played well in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean we won’t look to get better. You always look to get better. If we can find ways to tweak things and get better, we will.”

NHL: DEC 12 Coyotes at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 12: Pittsburgh Penguins Defenceman Kris Letang (58) skates during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Arizona Coyotes on December 12, 2016, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Penguins shutout the Coyotes 7-0. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If the NHL eventually returns to conclude it’s 2019-20 campaign, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang believes the playoffs will be open as ever.

“Momentum won’t carry for anyone,” Letang told Sportsnet’s Luke Fox. “Everyone will start back at square one.”

Letang’s Penguins sat third in the Metropolitan Division after 69 games when the NHL went on pause March 12 and were slated for a first-round matchup with the rival Philadelphia Flyers.

All 31 teams were close to the 70-game mark on their respective schedules, but the playoff bracket was far from determined. Three teams in the Eastern Conference were within three points of the final wild-card spot, while four squads were within four points of the postseason in the West.

In the 2019 playoffs, seeding hardly mattered, as all four wild-card teams advanced past the first round. To ensure the parity has a chance to continue, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently said the league will have to come up with something fair for the bubble teams if the current season returns.

The league recently extended its self-quarantine period for players and employees until April 30, and will likely have to stage games deep into the summer if a return is deemed viable.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is considered week-to-week with a lower-body injury, head coach Mike Sullivan announced Friday.

Letang exited Monday’s game against the Boston Bruins during the third period, but it’s unclear what exactly caused the ailment.

The veteran defenseman has recorded four goals and 12 points in 15 contests this season. He also ranks 10th league-wide with an average of 25 minutes of ice time per game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are listening to trade offers for defenseman Kris Letang, sources told The Athletic’s Rob Rossi.

Pittsburgh has told interested teams that any potential deal would need to involve a package including an “impact player on a controllable contract and/or a projected future salary-cap hit that was reasonable,” Rossi adds.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has already been active in trade talks since his club’s playoff run ended in a first-round sweep. A deal that would have sent Phil Kessel to the Minnesota Wild was reportedly nixed by the veteran winger, and Rutherford went on to say he no longer expects to trade the sniper.

Letang continues to be a top defenseman when healthy and has spent his entire 13-year career in Pittsburgh. He notched 16 goals and 40 assists while averaging nearly 26 minutes per contest in 65 games last season.

The 32-year-old has three seasons remaining on his current contract, which carries a $7.25-million cap hit and an 18-team list of destinations he’d accept a trade to.