Thursday Morning Mashup: Letang Prefers Toronto?


I think we can all agree that Leafs TV should have produced a PSA, prior to the off-season, indicating how to use an inflatable life-jacket.  Buckle-up, people.

GMs have now had some time to get a handle on the new reality created by the CBA. With the draft a little over 72 hours away, the rumours are abound and fans from every team will have their ears to the ground.

Yesterday, more news broke that the Leafs and Lightning were talking over a potential deal that got the league’s panties in a knot. Alec had it covered in this article.

Last night on TSN 1050 Game Night, Rob Rossi, a writer from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, joined Jim Tatti and Mike Hogan to talk about his thoughts on Kris Letang’s future.  Here’s what went down:

What’s your read on what’s happening in Pittsburgh?

I should stress that these things change potentially minute-by-minute, but the latest information I have is the Kris is a little bit curious about where he stands long-range in the Penguins’ plans. He’s read reports of mine that there are people within the organization that thought Paul Martin was the better defenseman last year and that there has been sort of a hesitation on a willingness to commit to him long-term at elite defenseman money.”

How does Toronto factor into this?

“Now, I should stress clearly that GM Ray Shero has been very public since the lock-out ended that he wanted to retain Kris Letang, but the Penguins have committed a lot of money to Crosby and Malkin, they’ve also committed NMCs to both of those players. They’re very deep in their system on defense and I’ve been told that if the Penguins couldn’t reach some sort of understanding with Letang, that Toronto has emerged as a preferred landing spot perhaps by Letang.”

How much would Pittsburgh ask for?

“It would be a place he’d be willing, if dealt, to perhaps sign a long-term deal and I know that the Penguins are going to want to deal with a team that can provide at least one roster player, in addition to a first round draft pick and a top prospect, if not two roster players. “

“They’re not looking to just get a third or a fourth line potential guy, they’d like to get roster players under contract that they think could fit in. The Leafs, over the years, have drafted players with great speed and that’s something the Penguins do – get faster – in addition to having guys under contract.”

Have the Leafs and Penguins talked?

“I don’t know that the Penguins and Leafs have had any discussions.”

If both parties can’t come to an agreement, what wold be the fallout?

“I believe that there would be a fairly intense bidding war for Kris Letang. We’re probably talking about the premier player that will be trying to negotiate a new contract, with the possibility of being traded in terms of the first guy to do that under the new CBA. The Penguins would only move him if they thought there would be significant return.”

How is this situation different from Jordan Staal’s situation last year?

“Now, the difference between the Letang and Staal situations was Staal told the Penguins that he wasn’t interested in signing a long-term deal because he wanted to go to FA, or he wanted to play for Carolina.”

“Letang has not told the Penguins that yet, and I can tell you his preference right now is to still try to work our something with the Penguins. This is where he wants to be, but he is at least considering where his other options could be in terms of where he wants to raise a young family.”

Why Toronto?

“Kris is used to playing a pretty big role on a high profile team, certainly a team like Toronto, especially with a coach like Randy Carlyle. I think Carlyle would suit Letang well if that was a fit. So, I think there are a lot of reasons why Letang would like the Maple Leafs if something doesn’t work out with Pittsburgh.”

What is your outlook for the Penguins’ roster?

“Eventually, Pittsburgh is going to have some sort of roster overhaul and it will probably be more obvious on defense. Pittsburgh is really among the deepest teams in terms of top-end prospects at the back-end. Now, that said, it’s my understanding that they’re interested in signing Orpik [and Despres] to extensions.”

Would they hold on to Letang?

“I do think there is a chance that Pittsburgh could hold on to Letang through the draft weekend. I don’t think they feel there is a player out there that they love so much that they have to go get a draft pick. There is, in Pittsburgh, an interest to see what the buyouts and [the draft] do to the NHL landscape.”

“The one thing I know about the Penguins is that there are only two untouchable players, Crosby and Malkin. One of the things that I think you’ll see in Pittsburgh, in coming years, is that eventually those guys will have to carry some younger players who might have talent but great inexperience. [Contrast this with] what’s been a fairly veteran group those two have played with for the first half of their careers.”

Why do some within the organization consider that Martin had a better season than Letang?

“Paul Martin had great metrics when you look at shut-down defensmen, he played more against top competition. That said, I don’t think they mean to say that Letang was a poor player last year and maybe they viewed that Martin gave them a little bit more consistency.”

“Letang, if you look at the metrics is about a top-70 players at his position in terms of the defensive defensemen. He is a number one, by most measures, when you look at offense, especially creating offense. Most of [Letang’s] shifts end up in the other team’s zone. Among players who played 30 games last year, Letang was 2nd in his position in terms of  the shot-attempted differential. I think Kris Letang is a future Norris Trophy winner and a guy who replaced Jordan Staal as the number 3 of the Penguins’ the Big 3.”

What do the Penguins think of Letang?

“The Penguins know that Letang stands to make a lot of money on the open market. In a salary cap system, it’s really tough to pay three players potentially upwards of $7M a year. Kris Letang, at $3.75M a year, is a tremendous bargain.”

“So, can you commit to a long-term deal at major money for Letang and win a championship? I don’t know if the Penguins feel comfortable with that.  I think they’d like to see him score fewer points, but be a little bit sounder defensively. ” 

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What do you guys think?

Would Letang be a good fit, and worth the price (both his acquisition, and the price of his new contract), given the Leafs have Gardiner and Rielly in the system? Would you give up one of those two + a roster player + a high pick to make this happen?

Have fun with this one…

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Morning Links:

Tevez Owens: Patrick Kane parties with a unicorn head (PICS)Best believe that this kid is running Chicago right now.

Backhand Shelf: HometownThe Hawks weren’t always as visible as they are now and it sounds like they had their own version of Harold Ballard.

Larry Brooks (NYP): Leafs & Lightning, Buyouts, and CBA CircumventionBrooksie bursting our creative, speculative bubbles. He might have been the first to report on this.

Friedman (CBC): 30 Thoughts, NHL buyouts no sure thingICYMI, #12 is encouraging.

Siegel (TSN): Inside the Maple Leafs Draft ProcessMust read, Leafs fans.