The Pittsburgh Penguins ended the speculation surrounding their No. 1 defenseman in the hours leading up to the NHL Draft, signing pending unrestricted free agent Kris Letang to a six-year extension Thursday afternoon.
Letang, 35, will earn a shade over $6 million each year in a $36.6 million agreement that will take him into his 40s.
Suffice to say, the Letang camp did quite well.
— NHL (@NHL) July 7, 2022
For his part, Letang maximized his worth this past season, turning in one of the best of his 16 years with the organization. He finished with 10 goals and a career-high 68 points, while turning in some impressive underlying data in big minutes. He accumulated enough Norris Trophy consideration to finish seventh on the ballot.
What Letang may lack in natural shutdown ability he's routinely made up for with elite puck-moving skills. It's a skill that likely won't drastically diminish.
There was some belief the Penguins, who have taken on new ownership, would step away from the partnership with older members of the existing core this offseason. In addition to Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust were on expiring contracts. However, the Penguins have now retained Letang and Rust on six-year agreements, while leaving the door open for Malkin.
It seems unlikely that Malkin will sign long term, let alone for six seasons, but the Penguins are currently engaged in talks with the aging superstar, signalling that Ron Hextall and Brian Burke, and more importantly ownership, have put off a rebuild in the Sidney Crosby era.
Brokering long-term agreements represents a path forward for the Penguins, if aggressively pursuing the immediate term. It's worth wondering how the final three seasons will look, or how they will be managed, when the time comes for Letang, but it won't matter if he provides value over the first half of the agreement.
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