There was a lot of conjecture, speculation, and parsing of words after Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall’s Thursday press conference and his answers regarding the future statuses of the Penguins championship core players Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
Both are UFAs after this season, and neither yet have a contract to extend their Penguins careers.
Hextall seemingly gave some cryptic hints, which launched rampant speculation.
“You know, we’d like to sign some of our UFAs. We have a hard salary cap, so they’re going to have to work with us,” Hextall began. “And, you know, certain players, if they want the most money, they’re probably going to go elsewhere. But I think you can say that about every team. So we’re hoping that our guys are comfortable here, which I believe they are, and hopefully, we can find a deal that satisfies both sides.”
To whom was Hetall tangentially referring about going elsewhere?
“We’ve had discussions with both guys. Certainly, they’re a top priority for us. We have a limited amount of cap space to squeeze everybody in, but that’s certainly our goal. Negotiations have been fine, and we’ll continue on,” Hextall said.
One matter has delayed Letang’s contract negotiations. Last week, his agent Kent Hughes was hired as the new Montreal Canadiens GM.
Letang’s new agent Phil Lecavalier also works for the Quartexx Agency, so continuity won’t be an issue. Still, Lecavalier confirmed to Pittsburgh Hockey Now that he and Letang are looking forward to beginning the process in earnest.
Lecavalier spoke with PHN to quell some of the rampant speculation that sprung from Thursday. Lecavalier struck an optimistic tone.
“In the next couple of weeks, I look forward to getting on the phone with Ron (Hextall) and Alec (Schall),” he said.
Schall is the Penguins Director of Hockey Operations.
Sources also informed Pittsburgh Hockey Now that Hughes and the Penguins had preliminary talks in later summer, but talks remained preliminary. Serious negotiations have yet to occur.
The Penguins jammed schedule has delayed matters, too. Agents loathe distracting clients with business matters on game days.
Kris Letang, 34, has been one of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best players this season. He has 38 points (5-33-38) in 39 games, making him the sixth highest-scoring defenseman.
The current crop of pending right-handed defensemen who could handle top-pairing minutes is currently thin. The list includes only Letang and Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg. There is a steep drop in potential UFAs after that.
Hextall stated in the press conference that he doesn’t like to negotiate in public. That was a sentiment shared by Lecavalier. The two also agree on Letang’s desire to stay with the Penguins. From there, perhaps both sides will find out if that goal is feasible.