Trade Letang? Sure, why not?
Shero has been adamant all winter he doesn’t want to go down the rental route again. He has had enough of sending away first-round picks for Brenden Morrows. He wants to make what he calls “pure hockey trades.” And that’s a great start to the thought process. No team can give up prospects and picks in perpetuity without some lasting returns.
This team needs more than a two-month fix or the brittle Beau Bennett at first-line right wing to replace Pascal Dupuis. It needs an impact performer, one who could stick around. It also needs more than a handful of AHL call-ups killing time on the third and fourth lines around poor Brandon Sutter.
Letang can draw all that. I don’t know who or where, but I know there are 29 teams that would listen. Don’t lose sight of that because of all those fist-shaking shortcomings. There remains a premium on offensive defensemen, especially those who are 26, have been a Norris Trophy finalist and come with cost certainty. This past July, the Penguins signed Letang to an eight-year, $58 million contract. That creates a long-term cap hassle here, but it might not elsewhere.
Here’s more about that contract: He’ll count $3.5 million toward the cap hit this season, but that jumps to $7.25 million next season. He’ll have a limited no-trade clause kick in next season – 15 teams of his choice, but there’s no such thing between now and July 1.
You get the picture.
Not suggesting it’s a no-brainer. Far from it. It’s absolutely imperative that Shero upgrades the Penguins at positions of need for years to come. And by that, I don’t mean winning the actual exchange. Rare is the trade in which the team receiving the best single player doesn’t win the exchange. And make no mistake, that’s what Letang likely will be.
But, at least to this view, it’s a risk worth taking.
Worried about the defense?
Not sure why, given that stirring show of Wilkes-Barre depth earlier this season.
Worried about offense from the blue line?
Short-term, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin and Olli Maatta offer plenty, and they’re reliable. Long-term, there’s Derrick Pouliot, who by all accounts has power-play pedigree that Letang still doesn’t display.
Worried about losing the trade?
Hey, Patrick might have lost that exchange in ’92 and, as he has told me many times since, he’s OK with that.