$7 million per year. That's the ballpark number that Letang will be able to command in free agency following next season. And that's simply not worth the Pens' time or money, especially when you crunch the numbers and see that the Penguins' decision will undoubtedly come down to re-signing either Evgeni Malkin or Letang to a massive contract. There shouldn't even be a debate about which player the Pens will pick if that is, in fact, the dilemma Shero is facing. As it stands, Shero and Malkin's agent are already in discussions, while Shero and Letang's agent have been putting off extension talks. That may be a good indication of where the Pens currently sit.
We're not saying the Pens couldn't afford Letang under the cap, because they probably could fit him in somehow. But it just doesn't make sense in the context of the Pens' roster. They already have big money wrapped up in Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Martin, and Fleury. Just can't see the Pens throwing that much money at Letang even if they don't have a "replacement" for him set in stone. Could possibly get a top-4 d-man in a trade. Pens got swept by the Bruins in a humiliating fashion, so anything is possible.
This season fell apart in the blink of an eye, and the NHL Entry Draft will be here just as quickly. We all remember what happened at last year's draft with Jordan Staal's eventual lame-duck season staring Ray Shero in the face.
This pales in comparison to how certain female sects of the Pens' fanbase would react to a Letang trade. Even if Shero gets a box of Cheerios in return, it would make the trade worth it.
Shero went big but still went home this season, resulting in the Pens not having a pick until the 3rd round this summer. Coupled with multiple young defensemen in the Pens' system knocking at the door for a shot at NHL action and Kris Letang's stock being probably as high as it ever will be, the Draft may be the time to strike.
Colorado is already being mentioned as a potential partner in trade talks. When we say "being mentioned," we mean you're probably hearing about it here for the first time. Trade Letang and MAF to Colorado for whatever. Patrick Roy probably wouldn't mind having MAF as a pupil.
Montreal would probably overpay in a trade for Letang.
Or Letang re-signs with the Penguins and gets a haircut.
Either way, Go Pens.