Responding to the growing drumbeat of a potential Kris Letang trade, a source with direct knowledge of the situation has indicated a Letang deal is “unlikely”.
Letang, 30, has struggled this season, despite being tied for 9th in NHL defenseman scoring with 25 points. The Penguins defenseman had neck surgery last season and played only 37 games. Both of Letang’s goals and 10 of his 23 assists have been on the power play, as the Penguins have struggled to score at 5v5. In fact, they’ve been historically bad.
The source instead suggested the Penguins prefer to deal Ian Cole, but injuries may prevent that. Right now, the most likely piece to leave the Penguins is one of their young wingers. Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, and Daniel Sprong’s names were specifically mentioned.
The Young Wingers
Guentzel is in his first full NHL season. In 38 games, Guentzel has 22 points (13g, 9a), 14 (6g, 8a) at even strength. Guentzel has been a fixture in the Penguins top-6 but has not locked down either left wing spot. He has switched from Malkin’s left to Crosby’s left side, and has seen third line duty, as well.
Conor Sheary, 25, signed a three-year, $9 million deal last July. He has 15 points (10g, 5a) in 38 games, but has been a spark on the Penguins third line, and occasionally the first line, too. Sheary had 53 points in 61 games last season, mostly playing beside Sidney Crosby. His name surfaced in rumors this summer, also.
Daniel Sprong is the wild card in the mix. Sprong has an electric offensive ability but has not yet rounded it into an NHL suitable game. Sprong, 20, lost most of last season after he required shoulder surgery to repair an injury he suffered as part of the Penguins Black Aces group, which practiced during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
This season, Sprong has 24 points (15g, 9a) in 28 games. Seven goals have come on the power play.
Sprong has teased fans and Penguins management alike. General Manager Jim Rutherford burned the first year of Sprong’s entry-level contract in 2015-16, hoping the winger could adapt to the NHL. It hasn’t happened yet. Current reports are mixed but cite improvement.
For now, it appears a Penguins shakeup will not include Letang.