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The Pittsburgh Penguins have agreed to terms with defenseman Kris Letang on an eight-year, $58 million contract extension, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.  The deal begins with the 2014-15 season and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and has an average annual value of $7.25 million. 

It has been the hockey talk in Pittsburgh for the past month; will Letang sign or be traded? Letang finished his best season this year as a Norris Trophy finalist.  He led all NHL blue liners in both points (t-38) and assists (33) while posting a plus-16 rating and in 35 regular season games. His 1.09 point-per-game average led all defensemen. It was appropriate that he got paid the same as the NHL’s top defenseman; he most certainly earned it. A two-time NHL All-Star (‘11 and ’12), Letang has proven to be one of the highest-scoring blue liners in the NHL over the past three years

Letang is a huge piece to the Penguins success, and it is nice to see him stay in the city he enjoys playing in. He fits well into the Penguins style of play and with a few improvements in his game (mainly turning over the puck) he could be formed into the League’s best defenseman. It’s great to see the Penguins are trying to improve their defense after proving that they have the strongest offense in the NHL. 


 
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The Penguins and defenseman Kris Letang have made progress in discussions on a contract extension, but still have some work to do before making a deal.

Getting Letang sealed into a long term deal has been a priority to the Penguins, and it could be a huge benefit to the future of the team. He is on the fast track to becoming one of the best defenseman in the NHL.  The only problem with that is paying him the salary of a top defenseman on a team with large salary cap hits from Crosby, Malkin, and others.

“It’s simpler enough to say we’re just not done yet,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said at the NHL Draft in New Jersey. “Still working on it with his agent. We haven’t had time to get together today with the draft. I’ll talk to him a little later and try to work through a couple of things and get back at it.”

“He’s a real good defenseman for us. He’s at the right age. I hope that’s going to be the case,” Shero said of an extension.

Shero wouldn’t divulge any details on what aspects of the contract need to be worked on because the negotiations are still ongoing.

“I had a meeting with (Letang’s) agent (Saturday) afternoon and later that night when we chatted again it turned more positive,” Shero said. “This morning we were trying to wrap a few things up, but we’re still not there yet. We just took a little break. We’ll get back at it and see if we can close the gaps here and there and see where we are.

“It usually comes down to the money and the term. There are things we still need to work on. We’ll see where it takes us.”

The Penguins offered an 8 year 56 million dollar deal to Letang, but his agent reportedly turned the offer down, wishing to be more at the 7.5-8 million-a-year range. The Penguins reportedly said that range is too much. Letang has not tried to hide the fact that he enjoys Pittsburgh and playing for the Pens, so I expect a deal to be made within the next 2 weeks. If not I shudder at the defensive struggles the Pens may have if nobody of that caliber replaces the position. 

 
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Dan Bylsma will coach the U.S. Men’s ice hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics, sources say. He will be named at a conference in New York later this year. Pens GM Ray Shero will also serve team USA as an associate to GM David Poile. Bylsma was considered the front runner for the job by many within USA Hockey.  With his ability to coach high caliber players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to such success, they feel he will fit in perfectly.  His knowledge of his two superstars could also help him coach Team USA to victories against their opposing teams. Also, with many NHL players expected to participate in the Olympics Bylsma would be perfect for the job. 


 
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The Pittsburgh penguins have agreed to terms with F Chris Kunitz on a 3 year contract extension. The deal begins with the 2014-15 season and runs through the 2016-17 campaign, and has an average annual value of $3.85 million.

Safe so say he deserves every penny of the deal. Kunitz, 33, enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2012-13, leading the team in both goals (22) and power-play goals (t-9) while ranking second on the team in points (52), rating (plus-30) and game-winning goals (t-5). It was the fifth time – and second-straight season – that he’s topped the 50-point mark and the sixth time he’s tallied 20 goals.

Since the pens acquired him in 2009 he has been nothing but a threat to other teams in the playoffs. He was a huge factor in the ’09 Stanley cup champion Penguins.  He has added 58 points (17G-41A) in 99 playoff games in his career with Pittsburgh and Anaheim.  He also became the first Penguin since Jagr in 2000 to score 4 goals in a single game.

It’s great to see Kunitz around for a while longer; he is a great tough player and has the stats to prove it. It will be interesting to see how his body can handle his style of play for the next few years. He plays a very bang up physical style of hockey that can do serious damage to anyone who’s in their mid 30’s.

Now that most of the key players are signed it will be interesting to see if the Penguins will be able to squeeze in a contract with Kris Letang. Trade Rumors are flying around Pittsburgh like crazy and with the Kunitz contract extension many people don’t think there will be enough cap room to sign Letang for the money he wants. The Penguins are also trying to work out a contract with Pascal Dupuis at the same time, making the cap limit edge closer and closer. 


 
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The deal begins with the 2014-15 season and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and has an average annual value of $9.5 million. And yes that is more than Sidney Crosby makes in a year! But Malkin has earned every penny of it. Just some of his accomplishments are 2x Art Ross Trophy winner (‘09, ’12) He has also won the Hart Trophy (2012), Ted Lindsay Award (2012) and Calder Trophy (2007). A three-time 100-point producer and a four-time 30-plus goal scorer, Malkin has been named team MVP on three occasions (’08, ’09, ’12); earned a spot on the NHL’s First-Team All-Star squad three times (’08, ’09, ’12); and has been named to four NHL All-Star Games (’08, ’09, ’11, ’12). That’s very impressive for someone who is only 26 years old and is just now peaking.

Malkin is a Pittsburgh guy, and I am very happy he is going to stay here. He is hard working, gritty, and gets the job done without complaining or stopping. He is extremely resilient and never quits, and in a blue collar town like Pittsburgh he gets the respect he deserves. Malkin loves the city, the owners, the team, and playing side by side with Sidney Crosby. I know Malkin belongs in the Penguins organization and I am glad to see he will be here for a long time. “The last few days we were hard at work on my contract,” Malkin said. “And today I know I’m staying because we signed the contract. I thank my agent and I thank the whole organization. They really want me to stay here. I’m so happy.” He also went on to say, “I like this city. It’s good for hockey. I like the fans. I have a house here and all of my friends here. But it’s good for me. I like the team here. It’s a good team. I hope we win the Stanley Cup.”

With Malkin and Crosby now sealed in for many years to come, the next step is to try and get deals done with Dupuis and Letang. A deal with Letang is the elephant in the room right now in Pittsburgh. With his contract up and the cap hit from Geno’s contract, there isn’t much money left to sign a big contract. Many (including me) fear the pens will lose their coveted defenseman.  And with defense seeming to be one of a few holes in the Penguins game it would be a rough time replacing him. 


 
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June 7, 2013 Final: Bruins 1, Penguins 0, a clean sweep in the series in which the pens scored only 2 goals. So now that the season is over we can ask ourselves, what happened to the favorites in the east? Another lacking performance in the playoffs from Fleury for the second year in a row makes many people question his future in Pittsburgh. And how about the coaching? Fans are quick to point the finger at Dan Bylsma and his coaching after two years of elimination in the playoffs after seemingly strong runs in the regular season. It doesn’t seem possible that a team so talented and dominant offensively (ranked #1 offense) could be completely swept in a series against a team they beat 3 times in the regular season.

What now?

Well, don’t be so quick to point the finger at individuals.

GM Ray Shero made statements on June 12, 2013 stating that he believes in Fleury and plans to see him in Pittsburgh in the future. Who wouldn’t want to see him in net? Fleury went 23-8 this season goaltending with a .916 SV%. Not to mention he also led them to the Stanley cup finals twice, winning the second time.

Bylsma’s record since taking over coaching is 201-93-25 and in the playoffs is 36-29. Add a Stanley cup victory to those stats too. But can he get the job done in the playoffs? Bylsma took over in 2008 and led the team to a Stanley cup victory over Detroit. Many would argue he took over and used Michel Therrien’s system and rode it out to victory. Since then the penguins are 20-21 in the playoffs under Bylsma, even after strong regular season play. And with the amount of talent on the team how could they play so poorly in the playoffs? Bylsma just might not be able to handle high caliber players. The emotion in the penguins in the 2012 playoffs and in the series against Boston shows poor coaching. They get frustrated and start playing reckless and too physical. They need a good strong coach to calm them and keep them focused.

But Shero is also to blame. He has made amazing moves to get the team stacked with good players for the playoffs for the past few years, but has been missing one piece of the puzzle. They needed a veteran in the locker room that could be a presence and captain them. They have not had that since Bill Guerin. When Guerin came in, he took over the room. Iggy and Morrow were just glad to be there.



The players they brought in were good, but the pieces of the puzzle did not fit. The Penguins have signed Bylsma to a 2 year extension, so he will be the coach for a while. I like Bylsma, I think he is a good coach, but I also think he needs to rethink his strategies and be open for change. Changes need to happen or we will all see the same results at the end of the year. And after seeing amazing regular season domination (and two of the best players in the world) I can’t bear to see another flop in the playoffs.


    Author

    Dan Taylor
    Huge Penguins fan, but I love to talk hockey in general.
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