TORONTO - The Penguins inability to store all their riches under the salary cap could see Norris Trophy nominee Kris Letang roll out of the treasure chest all the way to Toronto.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported late Wednesday that as the Pens run out of room to keep him in the fold, after deals for Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and James Neal are poised to eat $23 million in 2014-15 space, Letang is worried about his status on the club. Sources told the paper Letang wants to feel like the team appreciates him as their best defenceman and that Toronto would be a welcome destination if he senses a long-term deal isn’t there.
The premise is that if the Pens have to move him where there’s an abundance of cap space, with young prospects to give, as they did last summer with Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes, the quickly improving Leafs are now attractive. Toronto gets the point-a-game, 25-minute defenceman they need as an upgrade on Dion Phaneuf, while Letang would welcome the healthy raise and bigger leadership role.
Sorry, did we mention price? Bet on the Pens asking for the Leafs own young defenceman Jake Gardiner as part of a player-picks package. But if it’s a 26-year-old Letang coming back and the Leafs have faith in 2012 top pick Morgan Rielly, it could be a fit. Letang, who had 38 points in 35 games, will make $3.5 million next season, almost half of Phaneuf’s ticket. Keep in mind Letang has not asked for a trade and general manager Ray Shero has said he will keep trying to sign him beyond 2013-14.