Kris Letang will surely be traded over the summer. The question is no longer if he will be traded but rather where will he end up?
When the Penguins traded Jordan Staal, it was a pretty easy deal to negotiate. Staal wanted to go to the Carolina Hurricanes, a non-divisional opponent at the time with prospects and cap space.
At this time, Letang has not requested a specific team and he likely wont say anything as long as contract negotiations continue between Pens GM Ray Shero and Letang’s agent Kent Hughes.
But we can probably narrow down the possibilities based on a team’s cap space, prospects, division, and ability to re-sign Letang after next season.
First, here’s a list I created of teams that will not fit as trade partners with the Penguins for Kris Letang:
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning
Los Angeles Kings
Columbus Blue Jackets
St. Louis Blues
The Penguins wont send Letang to an Atlantic Division opponent and the Washington Capitals have an offensive defenseman by the name of Mike Green, who actually scores goals. Carolina may be a fit, but I doubt the Penguins would appreciate seeing Kris Letang and Jordan Staal multiple times per year.
The Vancouver Canucks have already invested a ton of money (nearly 23.5 mil) in their defense with the signings of Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa. The same can be said for teams like Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Edmonton is looking for defensemen, but they already have an offensive blueliner in Nick Schultz.
Florida, Columbus, Dallas, and Phoenix would be undesirable locations for Letang to sign a long term contract.
There are some fringe teams that may or may not have a shot (St. Louis, Detroit) but overall I see four teams that may be a fit to acquire Letang:
Anaheim Ducks (solid write up from Inside Pittsburgh Sports on how Letang fits with the Ducks here)
There have been loose rumors that Letang would eventually like to return home to play for the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have PK Subban, this year’s Norris Trophy winner and they surely won’t give him up just to acquire Letang.
Colorado owns the top pick in this year’s draft and a new coach in Patrick Roy. The Avalanche are unlikely to deal their top pick, especially for a guy like Letang, when they can have an 18 year old defenseman in Seth Jones.
Winnipeg is very intriguing to me. They have a ton of cap space, a plethora of NHL-ready forwards, and could use a more dynamic player on the backend. Dustin Byfuglien has a cannon from the point but Letang would open things up for the tenth scoring team in the Eastern Conference.
The Anaheim Ducks have the cap space, need, and prospects to get a deal done. Pittsburgh native, Josh Gibson, is a rising star between the pipes but the Ducks would be reluctant to let go of Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller. Bobby Ryan has been mentioned in trade talks for a few years now. That should increase since the Ducks extended Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry during the regular season this year.
This is complete speculation at this point. With the draft rapidly approaching (June 30th) there should be more rumors coming out of Pittsburgh on the whereabouts of Kris Letang’s future. There’s still a possiblity that he re-signs with Pittsburgh, but it’s not looking good. The Penguins need more depth and they do not have enough cap space to keep Letang.