Kris Letang (Getty Images)
Kris Letang and Mike Green could be two dynamic offensive defensemen available for trade before this year's deadline, while Mike Cammalleri and Ales Hemsky, two pending UFAs on rebuilding teams, may actually stay put.
More than six months after the Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed Kris Letang to a multi-year contract extension, a Pittsburgh sportswriter believes they should trade the defenseman for an impact player.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes Penguins GM Ray Shero hopes to avoid pursuing playoff rental players by the trade deadline. Kovacevic believes the Penguins need a proven scoring winger and depth on their checking lines and suggests Letang would land such a return.
Despite Letang's defensive shortcomings, Kovacevic cites his age (26), offensive skills and eight-year, $58-million contract (which begins in 2014-15) as attractive factors for other clubs. He believes Pittsburgh’s depth in young defensemen combined with the presence of veterans Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin can offset Letang's absence.
The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggests the Penguins' limited cap space means they must move salary to land veteran talent at the deadline. While acknowledging “the wow trade” would be moving Letang, Shinzawa notes Letang’s new contract would be “a big nut for other teams to assume.”
It's difficult to believe Shero will deal his best offensive defenseman at the trade deadline. If he decides to, though, Letang's upcoming $7.25-million annual cap hit could prove difficult to move this season, as interested teams might prefer to wait until they know for certain what next season's salary cap will be. An additional risk is Letang's injury history, as he's only played one full NHL season in his eight-year career.
While the Penguins certainly have promising blueline depth, none of them have Letang's level of experience and offensive skills. The Penguins also face the possibility of losing Niskanen this summer via free agency.
With the Penguins currently perched atop the Eastern Conference standings, Shero is under no pressure to make a blockbuster deal. If the Penguins come up short in this year's playoffs, perhaps Shero could give trading Letang more serious consideration in the off-season.
GREEN COULD FETCH HEFTY RETURN FOR CAPITALS
The Penguins aren't the only Eastern Conference team with a local pundit calling on them to trade their skilled puck-moving defenseman. The Washington Post's Mike Wise feels the Capitals need a shakeup and that trading Mike Green is the solution.
Unlike the high-flying Penguins, the Capitals are struggling. They've fallen three points out of a wild card berth and enter this week with only three victories in their past 10 games. Wise acknowledged his suggestion “might sound knee-jerk,” but he believes Green can fetch the Capitals a good return, such as “a defensive defenseman for a change.” Despite Green's long list of injuries, Wise claims he's still a marquee name that would attract suitors who believe they can “fix” the 28-year-old blueliner and turn him back into the Norris contender he once was.
While the Capitals undoubtedly need defensive depth, moving Green would weaken their offensive production from the blueline. Though he only has one more year left on a contract that pays him $6 million this year and $6.25 million next year, that's a tough salary to move during a season when a reduced salary cap has stagnated the trade market. As with Letang, injuries remain a concern with Green.
If the Capitals decide to move Green, a better time to do so is in the off-season when teams are more willing to gamble on expensive, brittle talent.
WILL CAMMALLERI RE-SIGN, OR GET TRADED?
It's widely assumed the Calgary Flames will peddle pending free agent winger Mike Cammalleri at the trade deadline, but there's talk they could try to re-sign him.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports the Flames opened contract talks with Cammalleri, who's earning an annual cap hit of $6 million, but making $7 million this season in actual salary. Kypreos is skeptical they'll reach an agreement as the 31-year-old winger's asking price could be more than their front office is willing to spend.
Having re-signed Matt Stajan to a long-term extension, it's understandable the Flames would explore re-signing Cammalleri. It's doubtful, however, he sees his future with a rebuilding team. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes Cammalleri could fetch a good return at the trade deadline. The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins are rumored as possible trade destinations.
WHY HEMSKY MAY BE MORE VALUABLE TO RE-SIGN THAN TRADE
Having attempted to trade winger Ales Hemsky last summer, it's believed the Edmonton Oilers will move him by the trade deadline. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency and isn't expected to return.
The Edmonton Journal's Jonathan Willis acknowledged the likelihood of Hemsky being shopped, but doesn't consider it automatic. He suggests the 30-year-old could be a worthwhile re-signing if management decides instead to use younger wingers Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov as trade bait.
Hemsky at best gets them a draft pick, which won't address their immediate need for a starting goalie, a top-two defenseman, a power forward or a second-line center. Eberle and Yakupov have better trade value.
Eberle, however, is unconcerned about his name popping up in the rumor mill. The Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest points out Oilers owner Daryl Katz promised his club wouldn't move any of its young core for a quick fix in his recent open letter to Oilers fans.
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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