The Penguins have signed defenseman Kris Letang to a four-year contract extension. The deal runs through the 2013-14 season. Financial terms have not been disclosed.
A third-round pick of the club in 2005, Letang, 22, has been a regular in the lineup the past three seasons. He has played in 211 games with the Penguins and during that span, he has recorded 79 points (21 goals, 58 assists).
This season, Letang has appeared in 67 games and has 27 points (three goals, 24 assists).
During last season's Stanley Cup run, he appeared in all 23 of the club's postseason games and recorded 13 points (four goals, nine assists).
Letang is one of the Penguins' regular shootout specialists as well. Throughout his career, he is 11 for 26 (42.3 percent) in the shootout.
EN Says: We like Kris Letang. A lot. We think he can be a staple of this franchise for over a decade. He's a great skater, he's a smooth puck-handler, he's got a shot (which had failed him somewhat this season), he's physical (a very underrated part of his game), and he has championship experience. And he's still learning the position. He's only going to get better.
We have no problem with the signing whatsoever. (Assuming the money is right.) But he's regressed this season. There have been times this season where he looks like he lacks confidence. Particularly with his shot.
(That said, he has picked up his game over the past three games with Sergei Gonchar out of the lineup. Heck, he attempted nine shots against the Maple Leafs, Sunday.)
Our biggest concern with this move is what is does for the future of Gonchar. The Penguins are simply a lesser team when he's out of the lineup. And when they run a power play without Gonchar, the statistics show they simply aren't as successful.
With Letang getting a pay raise and costing significantly more than the $835,000 he currently counts against the salary cap, Gonchar will likely have to take a pay cut should he choose to stick with the Penguins.
UPDATE: According to TSN's Bob McKenze, the deal is worth $3.5 million a season. We like it a little less if that's true. That's a good chunk of change for a guy who still hasn't totally fulfilled his potential.
But you know what? Good luck finding another 22-year-old right-handed shooting defenseman who takes shots in the shootout and is still developing.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)