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Penguins' deal with Letang held up; team won't guarantee he won't be traded next summer

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Islanders March, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Islanders March, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy during practice at Consol Energy Center Jan. 8, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy during practice at Consol Energy Center Jan. 8, 2013.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013, 4:03 p.m.
 

NEWARK, N.J. — The Penguins' up-and-down negotiations with defenseman Kris Letang continued Sunday.

Framework of the potential deal's length (eight years) and finances ($58 million total) were agreed upon, but there was haggling over Letang's push for a verbal agreement the Penguins will not trade him next summer, multiple sources told the Tribune-Review.

The Penguins balked at that request.

The NHL labor contract does not allow for revisions to existing deals.

Letang's current contract, which does not include a limited- or no-movement clause, is set to expire July 1, 2014.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero declined to get into specifics of talks with agent Kent Hughes but said discussions will continue Monday.

“Later (Saturday night) is when it turned a little more positive,” Shero said. “(Sunday morning) trying to wrap things up, we were still not there yet.

“We'll get back at it and see if we can close a couple of gaps here and there. Hopefully that will be the case.”

Hughes said of the negotiations: “We're still working on it.”

Framework of the proposal calls for Letang to count $7.25 million annually against the salary cap on a maximum-length contract for eight years. Only Nashville's Shea Weber ($7.86 million) and Minnesota's Ryan Suter ($7.54 million) would have higher cap hits among NHL defensemen.

Letang, 26, has aspired to be in the cap-hit neighborhood of Weber and Suter since those players agreed to their long-term contracts last summer.

Letang would not receive a full no-movement clause — a concession the Penguins require to pay him more than $7 million annually on a max-level term. Instead, Letang would receive a limited-movement clause, which would free the Penguins to trade him to one of 15 approved clubs at some time during the contract.

Shero proposed two structures for Letang's new contract Saturday. The other was for a four-year deal at $30 million (total), and it would include a full no-movement clause.

Had the sides not moved close to a deal, the Penguins would have shopped Letang aggressively on the entry draft floor. Shero previously had heard from interested clubs, including Montreal, San Jose and Philadelphia, and he chatted at the entry draft with general managers from Los Angeles and Vancouver.

The NHL labor contract does not permit the signing of a contract until Friday, when the new season officially begins.

The Penguins originally had shown no desire to have Letang count more than $7 million against their future salary cap allotments. Letang, anticipating a league-wide cap increase in his free-agent summer, initially had sights set on an annual value closer to $8 million.

The cap is set for $64.3 million next season, but with at least $3.3 billion in revenue projected by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the Penguins are among many clubs confident the cap will increase significantly in years after next season.

On their new contracts, centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would combine to count no more than 28.3 percent against the Penguins' future cap allotments if the cap increases. Malkin, who agreed to an eight-year contract earlier this month, will count $9.5 million against future caps. Crosby, set to begin Year 1 of a 12-year deal, brings an $8.7 million cap hit.

At about $25.5 million for Malkin, Crosby and Letang, the Penguins would have the most cap commitment to three players starting in the 2014-15 season. The next closest club would be Washington at about $22.3 million for winger Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green.

Shero reiterated Saturday that he preferred to build around Crosby and Malkin — each former MVPs and scoring champions — and Letang, whose point-per-game average has increased the last three seasons. Shero believes Letang's best days are ahead, and Penguins coaches are confident that Letang will continue to improve defensively.

Letang has scored 44 goals and produced 209 points in 385 regular-season games. He also has recorded 47 points in 80 Stanley Cup playoff games, a .588 per-game average when competition turns toughest.

The Penguins also believe Letang is suited for an expanded leadership role, which will begin with a full-on mentoring of Simon Despres, who occasionally played with Letang during his rookie season.

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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