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Penguins' Shero talks with Letang's agent

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Capitals on Feb. 3, 2013, at Verizon Center.

Ray Shero is about to crunch some numbers.

He is set to work on a contract proposal for defenseman Kris Letang, who soon will enter the final year of his current deal.

Shero met with Letang's agent, Kent Hughes, in Boston on Wednesday morning before the annual NHL general manager meetings at the Stanley Cup Final.

“We had a general meeting, and it was a good start,” Hughes said, adding there will be more meetings with Shero.

Hughes told Shero that Letang wishes to remain with the Penguins, for whom he has played regularly since 2007. Shero needed to hear that before bringing an offer to Hughes and Letang.

Shero was not available for comment. He has said keeping Letang remains the preferred option, though the Penguins have not ruled out trading Letang if he rejects a long-term contract offer. They did similarly with Jordan Staal last year, moving him at the NHL Entry Draft after he declined a 10-year contract for between $57-$60 million (total).

Letang, a first-time Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist, projects to at least double his current $3.5 million annual salary if he hits the unrestricted free-agent market in July 2014.

He can sign a new contract at a max-length of eight years July 5, which marks the official start date for the new season. The labor contract agreed upon by the NHL and its Players' Association in January allows for teams to re-sign their own players for eight years, but players can sign only seven-year contracts if they depart their current clubs as free agents.

Keeping Letang, 26, is a salary-cap challenge for Shero, who has committed to long-term contracts with franchise centers Sidney Crosby (12 years/$104.4 million) and Evgeni Malkin (eight years/$75 million). Those deals included full no-movement clauses for the players.

Letang, the only NHL defenseman to average a point per game last season, also seeks a full no-movement clause.

The Penguins believe their ability to consistently build around Crosby and Malkin would be limited, especially in a salary-cap system, if a third player held a full no-movement clause on a long-term deal such as the one sought by Letang.

Shero and Hughes had not discussed a new contract for Letang before Wednesday.

Shero is involved in discussion with Allan Walsh, the agent for winger Pascal Dupuis — one of seven Penguins players eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Dupuis, 34, is coming off two seasons over which he scored 45 goals, and he is the preferred right winger for Crosby.

Dupuis is projected to double his current $1.5 million salary on any next contract, either with the Penguins or another club. Dupuis and Walsh met Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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