The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed a huge part of their long-time core in Kris Letang by securing him to a 6-year contract worth $6.1 million in average annual value (AAV). Going into free agency on July 13, Letang was going to be one of the top free-agent defencemen available, despite being on the wrong end of 30. The Penguins will now shift their focus to another one of their core pieces, Evgeni Malkin.
Letang was coming off an expiring contract that paid him $7.25 million AAV over eight years. It also carried a no-move clause and a modified no-trade clause where he submitted an 18-team list that he could be traded to. According to CapFriendly, the one he signed on Thursday does not have any of those clauses in it. The deal, which will end at the conclusion of the 2027-28 season, brings him to the age of 41. Basically, he is set to retire as a Penguin, the team he has called home for the last 16 seasons.
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Selected 62nd overall in the 2005 NHL Draft, Letang has become a steal of a pick in the NHL and one of the Penguins’ best defencemen over the last decade and a half. As of this writing, he has 144 goals and 650 points in 941 career games and is set to play his 1,000th in the league during the 2022-23 campaign.
Letang also has two Stanley Cup rings and is a two-time All-Star. Even at age 34, he led the Penguins in ice-time last season, playing over 25 minutes a night in all situations and even got some Norris Trophy votes, finishing in seventh place. He ended up closing his 16th campaign in the NHL with 10 goals and 68 points in 78 games, his highest totals since the 2015-16 season when he put up 67.
What Does Letang’s Contract Mean for Malkin?
Now that Letang is taking up $6.1 million of the Penguins’ cap space, Ron Hextall and Brian Burke only have just over $15 million to re-sign unrestricted free agents Malkin, Rickard Rakell, and Evan Rodrigues and restricted free agents Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen. That’s not a lot of wiggle room, especially if Malkin is looking for a contract similar to the one his long-time teammate just signed.
That could mean Malkin will be out the door come July 13. The ying to Sidney Crosby’s yang, he has been with the Penguins since the 2006-07 season and has accumulated just as much mileage as Letang. At 35 years old, and turning 36 on July 31, he doesn’t have a lot of runway left, especially if his injury issues continue to plague him as his body continues aging. He is still good for 20 goals and 50-plus points a season, so I’m sure the Penguins, and other teams for that matter, will still pay him some good money for his services – despite the injury concerns. As such, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the coming days and weeks.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.