There wasn’t much hesitation in Ron Hextall today as he met with the media, explaining to reporters including Chris Johnston of TSN that he would be “surprised” if they didn’t sign Kris Letang to an extension. Hextall hopes to have it done by the time they leave Montreal, where the hockey world is congregating for tomorrow’s draft.
On Evgeni Malkin, the team’s other franchise icon closing in on unrestricted free agency, Hextall said they are “still working” but didn’t share any other details.
Letang, 35, is still an extremely effective player and is actually coming off the best offensive season of his career. With 68 points in 78 games, racking up a career-best 171 hits, and still averaging close to 26 minutes a night, he finished seventh in Norris Trophy voting.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion is arguably more important to the Penguins than Malkin, at least in terms of this current championship window, as there is no internal option to fill the hole that Letang’s departure would leave. The team would have to look outside the organization, and players of his caliber obviously don’t hit the open market very often.
That’s also why a contract for Letang could still have a big number attached to it, meaning a multi-year extension carries quite a bit of risk for the Penguins. The team will be married to this aging core, meaning if he or Sidney Crosby takes a step back in effectiveness, any thought of contending for the Stanley Cup would likely go out the window.
Still, that’s likely the case even if Letang left in free agency, as the Penguins’ results are really tied to Crosby’s career at this point. Pushing in for a player you know and love–and also one who has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh–always did seem like the prudent option, even if it will mean committing lots of money to an aging talent.
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