If the Pittsburgh Penguins are determined to ink star defenseman Kris Letang to a long-term contract — why don’t they just deal Paul Martin?
Martin, 32, signed on with Pittsburgh as an unrestricted free agent in July 2010 and has had his share of ups and downs with the club.
Criticized heavily in his first season for poor puck management and indecisiveness, Martin is making the most money out of any Pens defenseman at $5 million per year.
And although some might argue he turned a corner this past campaign, are the Pens really going to sacrifice Kris Letang for Paul Martin?
Letang, 26, has played in Pittsburgh his whole career and was a Norris trophy finalist (best defenseman) for the first time this past season.
Entering the last year of his contract, Letang is without question the teams best defenseman — but do the Pens see him as that?
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the Pens have sighted Martin as their top d-man and speculation has circulated that Letang might’ve been turned off by the alleged opinion.
So much so, that the eight-year $54 million contract wasn’t enough for Letang to sign on the dotted line.
After Letang had stated his main goal was to stay with Pittsburgh, you’d think $6.75 million would’ve been enough to retain him, considering the talent of the teams core players.
Pittsburgh has said that they’re willing to go to $7 million annually; however, Rossi is reporting that Letang is thinking somwhere around $7.5 million.
But why? Why are the Pens so high on Paul Martin that they’d risk the future of Letang in a Pens sweater?
Letang has brought so much skill and ferocity to a defensive core that is still lacking tangible assets. And because he is six years younger than Martin, wouldn’t Martin’s departure seem more reasonable?
Knowing how General Manager Ray Shero likes to stock up on draft choices and young talent, chances are Letang is going to be the piece that brings in what he seeks – that’s understandable.
What’s irrational about the whole situation is that they haven’t even considered dealing Martin.
Letang is Pittsburgh’s best defenseman – not Martin.
And even though Shero might not be able to get a lot for Martin, he still can manage to clear up some cap space to give Letang what he desires – because he deserves it.
Yes, Letang has seen his share of injuries in recent seasons; however, Martin is also coming off a season where he received surgery for a broken bone in his hand.
And while he may be seen as the go-to defenseman in Pittsburgh’s eyes – for future considerations – Letang is the guy who’s going to lead the Pens defensive core for years to come.
In 35 regular-season games this past season, Letang recorded 38 points (5G, 33A) and led the team with an average of 25:38 minutes on the ice.
In 34 regular-season games last season for Martin, he registered 23 points (6G, 17A) and was named Pittsburgh’s best defensive player.
The Pens front office ultimately has to come down to a decision – hopefully they’ll recognize Letang’s worth in the next couple days and realize they’ll need him.
As I’ve said before though – with the Pens – expect the unexpected.