Kris Letang close to signing eight-year deal with Penguins


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NEWARK, N.J. -- Penguins general manager Ray Shero said numerous times in recent weeks how difficult -- if not impossible -- it would be to replace defenseman Kris Letang.

It looks now as if he probably won't have to.

Although there still are some details to work out, the Penguins and Letang appear to be close to settling on a long-term deal.

"We're still working on it with his agent [Kent Hughes]," Shero said as the NHL draft at Prudential Center was winding down Sunday night. "We'll get together, maybe, sometime a little later [today] to try to see if we can work through a couple of things."

A bit earlier, Hughes had confirmed that there was "not yet" an agreement.

The contract, when finalized, is expected to cover eight years and be worth $58 million. If neither the term nor the total value changes, the deal will carry a salary-cap hit of $7.25 million.

A four-year agreement that would carry a slightly higher cap hit also was believed to be on the table Sunday.

Shero declined to say precisely what remains to be resolved, but said "it usually comes down to the money and the term" rather than issues such as no-trade clauses. Letang's deal is expected to include at least a limited one of those.

Per the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, his new contract can't be signed before Friday, even if everything is worked out.

Letang's current contract, which has a cap hit of $3.5 million, runs through the 2013-14 season. His new agreement, if finalized, won't have an immediate impact.

But it could give Shero a few headaches once it kicks in because, with Letang's new deal factored in, the Penguins have about $49 million committed to just eight players for 2014-15.

The salary-cap ceiling for that season hasn't been set, but preliminary projections are that it likely will rise to about $70 million.

Shero spent a little time with Allan Walsh, who represents Pascal Dupuis, Sunday night, and continues to try to reach agreements with Dupuis, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams. All will become unrestricted free agents if not signed by July 5.

Dupuis, the Penguins' first-line right winger, has the most leverage of the three and might be the toughest to retain.

"He's an important piece to our team that I'd like to have back, but the money and the term have to fit both parties," Shero said. "We'd like to have him back, if at all possible."

The Penguins made their first move of the day minutes before the draft began, sending right winger Tyler Kennedy to San Jose for a second-round draft choice, the 50th overall selection.

Shero said several teams expressed interest in Kennedy, but the Sharks "had the best second-round pick to offer."

Kennedy, 26, had six goals and five assists in 46 games during the just-concluded season. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent Friday unless the Sharks extend him a $2 million qualifying offer.

The Penguins subsequently traded the San Jose choice and a third-rounder to Columbus for the 44th selection, which they used on goalie Tristan Jarry.

Jarry is 6 feet 1, 178 pounds and had an 18-7 record, 1.61 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in 27 appearances with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

"We really like this goaltender," Shero said.

Jarry is reputed to have good lateral movement, as well as a good glove and outstanding athleticism, but conceded that he was picked a little earlier than he had anticipated.

"I thought I'd go a little later, to be honest, with all the great goalies in the draft and all the great players," he said.

Perhaps he shouldn't have been, though, since the Penguins had made it clear he had a prominent place on their radar.

"I talked to them a couple of times, once at the combine and a couple of times on the phone before that," he said. "And my agency was telling me they had quite an interest."

Jarry said he considers his puck-handling ability to be one of his greatest strengths, and that he admires Montreal goalie Carey Price. The Penguins' current go-to goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, does not share either of those traits.

They used their third-rounder, acquired from Dallas in the Brenden Morrow trade, on a speedy and skilled, but undersized, center Jake Guentzel.

He is 5 feet 9, 153 pounds, but had 29 goals and 44 assists in 60 games with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League in 2012-13 and was honored as the league's top rookie. He will attend Nebraska-Omaha.

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published July 1, 2013 4:00 AM


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