Kris Letang was a Norris finalist this season. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
The hockey world didn't have to wait long for the Pittsburgh Penguins to re-sign superstar Evgeni Malkin, who inked an eight-year, $76-million deal with a cap hit of $9.5 million.
Malkin accepted a hometown discount, earning more than Sidney Crosby's $8.7 million per season, but well below the league maximum salary of $12.86 million.
GM Ray Shero also wasted little time addressing the futures of the coaching staff and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury by announcing Wednesday Dan Bylsma and his assistants were re-signed to two-year extensions and that there was no plan to part with Fleury.
In the wake of the Malkin signing, the focus shifted to contract extension talks with defenseman Kris Letang, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
Though Shero said in his Wednesday press conference Malkin and Letang weren't going anywhere, negotiating a new contract for the latter could prove difficult.
It's believed Letang wants a deal from five to eight years in length with a no-movement clause, while the salary range could stretch from $7 million to north of $8 million per season.
Letang was also a Norris Trophy finalist this year, all but ensuring he'll at least double his $3.5 million per season cap hit.
The Penguins have sufficient cap space next summer (more than $30 million if the salary cap remains at $64.3 million) to invest $7 million per season on Letang, but they've already invested more than $34 million on just six players.
Letang is their best puck-moving defenseman, but concerns persist over his defensive play and injury history. He's played only one full season in his NHL career and was sidelined twice by concussions.
That's sparked speculation that Shero will trade Letang and add a better all-round (and more affordable) blueliner such as Phoenix's Keith Yandle. The asking price, however, could be a top-line center, which the Penguins cannot spare.
Given the present lack of suitable options, the Penguins can either try to re-sign Letang for less than $7 million, or play out next season and hope a better option becomes available via trade or free agency.
SABRES CHARGE AT FIRST OVERALL PICK
The Buffalo Sabres are among the teams interested in Colorado’s first round pick (first overall) in this year's NHL draft.
Sabres director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine admitted during an interview his club held talks with the Avalanche about the pick. He believes new Avs coach Patrick Roy didn't return to Colorado with the idea of going through a lengthy rebuild.
The Denver Post's Adrian Dater wrote “immediate speculation on one deal” would consist of goaltender Ryan Miller, young center Mikhail Grigorenko, a defensive prospect and the eighth overall pick.
Dater doubts Avs management would accept it, citing Miller's age (32), salary ($6.25 million) and free agent status next summer. He believes Grigorenko pales in comparison to a top prospect like Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones.
He also dismisses the notion of acquiring Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers by pointing out his recent injuries, declining performance and hefty cap hit ($5.5 million per season for the next six years). He even suggests staying away from Thomas Vanek if he were offered up in the deal.
Dater doubts the Sabres have sufficient assets to pry the first overall pick away from the Avalanche, whose asking price could prove too expensive for every team interested in it.
REALLY BIG BUFF
If the Winnipeg Jets harbour thoughts of trading defenseman Dustin Byfuglien this summer, they could find it a weighty problem.
Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless cited a rumor claiming Byfuglien tipped the scales at 302 pounds by the end of this season. Lawless believes the 28-year-old's conditioning could seriously hamper efforts to shop him.
Byfuglien, whose playing weight is listed at 265 pounds, has raised eyebrows over his conditioning in recent years, though such concerns usually occurred in the off-season.
Lawless still considers Byfuglien “arguably the Jets most talented player” but he's worried about the defenseman's consistency. Combined with his cap hit ($5.2 million per season) and the fitness issues it's little wonder Byfuglien has become the subject of trade rumors.
If the Jets seriously shop “Big Buff” there will be considerable interest from clubs that could not only afford his salary, but also believe they could better address his conditioning and consistency issues.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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