The Pittsburgh Penguins are a team absolutely loaded with talent, particularly on offense. Given the limitations of the league’s salary cap, which is coming down for the 2013-14 season, they’re not going to be able to hang on to everyone. Which means that at least one of their big names could be a cap casualty in the very near future.
The Pens made a big move in locking up Evgeni Malkin on a contract extension. It’s obviously significant because now the Pens have two of the top five players on the planet under contract for the next several years. But it also may lead to the Penguins being unable to afford Kris Letang.
Say what you want about Kris Letang, he’s an elite defensemen. His play in his own zone leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s as good as it gets as an offensive weapon from the blue line. The past two seasons have seen him put up 80 points in 86 combined games on defense, though he has been limited by injury over the course of each of those campaigns.
Letang is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2013-14 season. He is very likely going to see his current cap hit of $3.5 million double, at the very least. Which means there’s simply no way that the Pens can afford to keep him, if they hope to maintain the overall quality of their roster.
The Penguins’ front office has no intention of paying Letang a penny more than $6 million a year. This all but guarantees a move. And with him becoming an unrestricted free agent after this next season, the time to move him is going to be in the very near future. There shouldn’t be any shortage of interest out on the market. Someone will pay handsomely.
Pittsburgh may feel that they could replace Letang’s play on the defensive end, while taking advantage of the fact that they have plenty of offensive talent that Letang isn’t necessarily a player that they absolutely need to keep. This is very likely the thinking of Ray Shero.
Given what we know, it’d be a pretty big surprise to see Letang still manning the Penguins blue line by the time next season rolls around. There’s simply too much value in him to keep him around and risk him leaving in free agency next year. The front office is aware of this, and all indications are that they’ll try and move him this offseason.