Perhaps the most dramatic free-agent negotiations east of Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins have locked down their all-time highest-scoring defenseman and veteran of 16 Penguins seasons, Kris Letang.
Letang, 35, has been there for three Stanley Cups, too.
Ron Hextall said Wednesday that a deal was close.
Thursday, Letang accepted a six-year deal worth $36.6 million, which works out to a salary-cap hit of $6.1 million. The Penguins will have about $15.3 million salary-cap space remaining, according to PuckPedia.com.
“Kris epitomizes what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” said Hextall. “The role he plays on our team is irreplaceable, he is a leader in our locker room, and has made countless contributions to the organization over the last 15-plus years, which includes three Stanley Cup Championships. We are thrilled to make him a Penguin for life.”
Last season, Letang was again among the leading defenseman scorers in the NHL. He had 10 goals and 68 points in 78 games. He also finished seventh in Norris Trophy voting, the third time in the past four years that he finished in the top 10
It’s been a noisy month or so for Letang, and the first time the Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman reached this point of an offseason without a contract. In 2021-22, he completed an eight-year contract with a $7.25 million average annual value.
PHN asked Letang in March if the lack of a new contract was weighing on him.
“That noise been in my ear for eight years, so it doesn’t really matter. You know, at the end of the day, I’m like, 34 years old. I’ve been through those things. It doesn’t really bother me anymore,” Letang laughed. “Whatever happens, happens. You know, it’s out of my control for right now … That’s it.”
A source told PHN on Tuesday the team has felt a deal would get done and that it was a matter of term, not dollars. Letang said several times during the season he wants to play until he’s 40. He even laughed with Montreal media (in French) that he’d like to play until he’s 45.
The other Penguins stalwart, Evgeni Malkin, remains unsigned.
After laughing that he’s “kind of a rich guy,” in January, Malkin bristled at accepting a lowball offer on breakup day in May.
“I know I’m still a good player,” he said.