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Pens, Letang CLOSE on new contract; club and Dupuis far apart.

NEWARK, N.J. — The Penguins and defenseman Kris Letang have made significant progress on a new contract.

However, though close to agreement, a new deal was not done as of noon Sunday.

“Still working,” agent Kent Hughes said. “Not done.”

Letang’s deal would be for $58 million (total) over eight years, giving him the third best salary-cap hit ($7.25 million) among NHL defensemen.

However, Letang would not receive a full no-movement clause, as did centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on their third NHL contracts. Instead, Letang would receive a limited-movement clause.

A meeting late Saturday between general manager Ray Shero and Hughes left both parties comfortable that negotiations were back on track after several days of acrimony this past week.

The Penguins were willing to go over $7 million annually – but not up to $8 million – to keep Letang, who can agree to a new contract because he is set to enter the final year of his current deal.

Shero presented two structures for a possible deal: one at the maximum-level eight years and another at half of that term. Letang would command more annual salary on the max-level deal. To get the higher average annual salary, Letang would need to accept a limited-movement clause in the latter years of a contract. He would get a full no-movement clause on the short-term contract.

Shero discussed his views on paying big money to three players (Crosby, Malkin and Letang) in this Sunday Tribune-Review report: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/4278007-74/letang-penguins-shero#axzz2XiBmXqEi

The Penguins wanted to know by Sunday afternoon if Letang could realistically be expected to agree to their terms for a new contract. Otherwise, they will aggressively look to move him at the NHL Entry Draft, which begins at Prudential Center at 3 p.m.

Shero confirmed Saturday that he has heard from clubs interested in trading for Letang, who has made $3.5 million annually on his current contract.

Montreal, San Jose and Philadelphia have inquired. The Penguins are confident that more clubs will express interest if they begin shopping Letang on Sunday afternoon.

Shero said Saturday he did not expect to acquire a first-round pick at the Entry Draft, though he was optimistic of landing a second-round selection. In-season trades cost the Penguins their first- and second-round picks for this Entry Draft.

In other developments involving negotiations between the Penguins and players:

  • Winger Pascal Dupuis is likely not to sign with the Penguins before the window that allows players to speak with other clubs prior to the start of free-agent season. Dupuis is a top-line winger who has averaged 20 goals the last four seasons, but he and the Penguins are not close on years or annual salary. Shero and Dupuis’ agent, Allan Walsh, met Friday and talked Saturday. Dupuis is one of seven players that can become an unrestricted free-agent on Friday. He can begin interviewing with other teams Wednesday.
  • Shero continues to have discussions with representatives for winger Matt Cooke, also an impending unrestricted free agent. However, the Penguins are not likely to bring back Cooke and Dupuis after re-signing left winger Chris Kunitz to a three-year deal worth $11.55 million on Thursday. Dupuis or Cooke could be retained, though. Cooke and Dupuis are seeking multi-year deals – Cooke at least three years, Dupuis at four. Kunitz had one year left on his current contract, so the Penguins are now committed to him for the next four seasons.
  • The Penguins are confident that winger Craig Adams will re-sign before testing the market. Adams, a staple on the fourth line and penalty kill, is seeking a two-year contract.

 

—     Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib)

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

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