Would it be Wise for Pittsburgh to Trade Letang?

Jan 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Panthers won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

While the Pittsburgh Penguins are not actively shopping him – and his skills remain an asset to the team in the long run – could defenseman Kris Letang be on the chopping block?

Given a gigantic 7-year, $58 million contract in the offseason, Letang has been anything but the Norris Trophy finalist he was last season.

Now, of course, injuries have stalled his progress a tad, and he has been picking it up recently. However, overall, Letang hasn’t performed like a $58 million-dollar blueliner in the slightest.

Knowing the team has outstanding depth at the blue-line, and witnessing what the future holds for their plethora of defensive prospects, Letang’s name could most certainly surface around the trade deadline. Not to mention, the team would probably like to clear some salary off their payroll, considering they’re flirting with the max-cap allowed.

Letang’s new lucrative deal doesn’t bode well in terms of flexibility for future moves. Although he’s a tremendous player, and I view him as a top-5 defensemen in terms of talent, there’s a package out there waiting to be delivered in exchange for his services.

Fans didn’t expect the organization would actually trade forward Jordan Staal, but he was. Labeled as part of the core-four for Pittsburgh – a group that included: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and Staal – general manager Ray Shero didn’t shy away from pulling the trigger because he knew it was best for the team.

A deal that saw him acquire current center Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft – which was used to select defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who’s widely regarded as a future star on Pittsburgh’s blue-line.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an article about this recently, and although he doesn’t suggest the team should trade Letang at all, he does mention – for long-term purposes – that the organization would receive great value for the defenseman.

I mean, he’s right.

Forget the Staal-trade, how about the trade that landed them both Matt Niskanen and James Neal? Alex Goligoski, thought to be apart of the Pens’ defensive core for the future, was able to reel-in both of them. And evaluating the trade now, it was just as-good-as the Staal-trade, if not better.

As I referenced earlier, for as much glamour and moxie Letang brings to the lineup, his deal poses a problem for the organization moving forward.

According to Kovacevic, if Pittsburgh is having any second-thoughts about keeping him, now would be the appropriate time for his dismissal, because next season his cap hit will add an extra $3.75 million, and he’ll be able to put 15 teams on his limited no-trade clause.

Dealing him would also open-up the possibility of re-signing Niskanen – who’s playing out of his mind this season. Leading the entire NHL in plus/minus (+29), Niskanen ranks ninth for defenseman in scoring with 30 points (7G, 23A), and has been the team’s most reliable blueliner – given he’s performed in every game for them.

Perhaps, Niskanen’s resurgence has a direct correlation with his expiring contract, but it could also mean he’s a late-bloomer. You got to remember, Niskanen was a first-round pick. So the potential has always been there, it’s just more prevalent now.

Plus, if the Pens’ choose to re-ink Niskanen, I’m sure he’ll likely take a discount to stay. He’s a real character guy the team needs in the locker room — nothing against Letang.

In my opinion, Letang would give Pittsburgh some much needed draft choices, after they surrendered picks for Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray last season. A right-wing for Crosby would be nice, but I think forward Jayson Megna is a great fit for them there.

So should the Pens’ trade Letang? Probably. But will they? You never know.

Topics: Pittsburgh Penguins

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  • Rick Tilves

    Letang is NOT a Top Five D. ! Top Five Offensive D., Yes. His D. has been Terrible.
    If I did not trade him I would make him a Winger, because he plays more like a w. than a D. If Englland can fo fro D. to W., WHY Not Letang ?? He is Faster and a better Scorer than Englland is any day. You then bring up the Best real D. who played SO Well when they had the injuries. Make sense to anyone else ?

  • OVP66223

    I didn’t like them signing Letang in the first place. When has Letang ever been a great D-man? His defensive play is atrocious. He turns over the puck more than any other D-man on the team, including rookies. He has skills, puck-handling, passing and shooting all above average, but his instincts are terrible. No one gets beat more often than Letang. It is no wonder when he comes back the defense collapses into shoot-out games. They were so much better WITHOUT him suiting up that trading him for anything is a no-brainer, as you remove a weak-link on team defense and turnovers and then get to bring up a young, promising D-man for depth and promote a better D-man that is lower on the depth chart.

    I just can’t figure out what Shero or Lemieux see in Letang to shell out $7 million per season. They must be in love with those offensive skills to turn a blind eye to all the negatives surrounding Letang’s game. Add in the propensity for injuries, you just HAVE to move him for anything, and you must do so before the clock-work month-long injury absence next occurs…probably just a week or two left.

    That said, anyone expecting “a haul” of a trade is mistaken. What team is going to give up several promising pieces for a one dimensional player that will make your “team” worse? I know, there are several teams that desperately need offense, and that is our potential saving grace.

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  • Pens fan

    I would not mind seeing Letang stay or go. If the situation is right the Pens shoud trade him. I am not saying this based solely on his numbers and turnovers but because I feel that there are areas of the team that should be improved upon. Those areas are, a long term right winger for the first line and improvement on our third or fourth lines. Although I might be way out there I would love to see a trade being made for Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane in some type of package deal. Wheeler brings both size and scoring ability as well as Evander kane. Plus both players are young and under a long term contract. Another trade involving Letang I’d like to see is Letang for Eberle and Matt Jones. Eberle is young, talented and under a long term contract. Jones is a plus player and brings size and toughness. With these trades it would be worth dishing out prospects and draft picks if needed. Maybe this is just a dream but one should never lose hope.

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