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Letang deal with Penguins still in limbo

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 9:24 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Rangers January, 2013 at Madison Square Garden.

The Penguins knew this July 1 would be quieter than in previous years.

But this one was really quiet.

Kris Letang's contract remains in limbo almost 48 hours after an agreement nearly was reached. Forwards Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow moved another day closer to unrestricted free agency.

The free agency signing period, which usually begins July 1 but has been moved back because of the season-delaying lockout, begins Friday.

Negotiations between general manager Ray Shero and Letang's agent, Kent Hughes, produced a monetary agreement during NHL Draft weekend in New Jersey.

However, a snag remains.

Letang wants a verbal guarantee that he will not be traded during the next 12 months should he sign the eight-year deal that the Penguins have offered. The contract would give Letang $7.25 million per season. It also would give him leverage with a limited no-movement clause, meaning he could be traded to 15 teams of his choice.

The catch is that the no-trade clause wouldn't be effective immediately. It is stated in the collective bargaining agreement that movement clauses may not be included in previously signed contracts, and the Penguins can't buy out the final year of Letang's most recent deal, which pays him $3.5 million annually.

Rather, the contract they are negotiating serves as an extension, as the Norris Trophy nominee must play out the final year of the four-year, $14 million deal.

This is different than deals negotiated by Shero with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Although they still had one year remaining on their previous contracts, Crosby and Malkin immediately were permitted to trigger the no-movement clauses because they already had played out their years of restricted free agency.

Letang will not have accomplished that until the end of the 2013-14 season.

Shero and Hughes plan to meet again before Friday. The Penguins would like to have this situation cleared up before focusing their attention on a list of would-be free agents.

Three of the Penguins' impending free agents comprise the core of the team's penalty-killing unit. That group, which underachieved in the regular season but thrived in the playoffs, could have a different look next season.

Dupuis, Cooke and Adams are arguably the team's three best penalty killers. All could be gone in a matter of days, should Shero be unable to sign them.

Center Jordan Staal, who once joined the three free agents in coach Dan Bylsma's top four penalty-killing look, was traded last summer.

The Penguins still are involved in negotiations with Dupuis' agent, Allan Walsh. Although no deal has been reached — and Dupuis possibly could make more money on the open market — Walsh and Shero continued speaking Monday.

Shero also will be speaking with Adams' agent, Neil Sheehy, in the next few days.

Although Shero and Sheehy did not speak Monday, the agent expects talks to resume later this week. The Penguins would like to bring Adams back to play in the fourth-line role that has been his since he was claimed off waivers from Chicago in 2009.

Staff writer Rob Rossi contributed. Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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