MONTREAL — The most productive defenseman in Penguins history isn’t going anywhere.
The Penguins and star blue-liner Kris Letang have agreed to a contract extension that could allow the franchise cornerstone to finish his career where it started — in Pittsburgh.
The six-year deal, which has an average annual value of $6.1 million, will run through the 2027-28 season. Letang will be 41 when that deal expires.
“Kris epitomizes what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” general manager Ron Hextall said in a statement. “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.”
The six-year term on the contract is longer than most anticipated heading into this offseason. But the $6.1 million average annual value is also less than expected.
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The Penguins had hoped all along to get Letang to take a pay cut on the $7.25 million he made the previous eight seasons, even though the defenseman may have been able to even find a raise on the open market. But by spreading out the money over a longer term to find a middle ground, the club has now given itself a bit more wiggle room under the $82.5 million salary cap.
Currently, the Penguins have about $15.3 million in salary cap space, according to Cap Friendly with several hard decisions still looming, most notably with star center Evgeni Malkin.
Letang, a six-time All-Star who finished in the top 10 in voting for the Norris Trophy in each of the past two seasons, holds virtually every major record for a Penguins defenseman. That includes games played (941), goals (144), assists (506) and points (650).
So long as he can stay healthy, Letang should enjoy his 1,000th game in a Penguins sweater this season.
With his name etched on the Stanley Cup three times and his place in Penguins record books already written, the defenseman stepped to the negotiating table in a position of strength. His contract year became a career year. Letang, who turned 35 in April, showed few signs of age or wear. His 68 points were a career best. He scored 10 goals, three of them game-winners, in 78 games. His plus-20 rating was the second highest of his career. And he ranked fourth in the NHL in average time on ice.
A noted workout warrior, Letang’s strong performance diminished any concerns about how his game or his body would age over the length of an extended contract.
By the time the postseason wrapped up, Letang had solidified himself as one of the league’s marquee free agents this summer.