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Morning Java: Who’s going? Why not Letang?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Long-faced Lunatics …

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>> The Monday column takes a rather dim view of Dan Bylsma’s press conference Sunday morning on the Penguins’ breakup day. I can assure I was all set with another angle for the column, but Bylsma changed that within about a minute.

Watch for yourself to see why. The third question is mine regarding Jarome Iginla.

I also spoke with Iginla on the same issue, here below …

Here’s our full Penguins coverage today, including all kinds of contract updates by Rob Rossi.

I do feel compelled to share at least a bit of what I was going to write before Bylsma went Bizarro on us, so I’ll condense it here …

The Penguins must prioritize signing Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis, they must trade Kris Letang, and everything else should fall further down Ray Shero’s list.

The reasons behind Malkin and Dupuis are obvious, so I’ll skip ahead.

Letang is going to want a contract with an annual value of $7 million. I don’t want to be mean here, so let’s leave it at this: He isn’t worth that. He wasn’t even the team’s best defenseman this year, Norris Trophy nomination be damned. That distinction belonged to Paul Martin. (And let the record show that I have never been more wrong in anything I’ve written in this role than imploring Shero to but out Martin last summer.)

More important, someone else will have such a need for such a player that they’ll think he is worth that — see the Stars just handing Sergei Gonchar $10 million — and they’ll give up something significant in a trade to have him for one year, along with the exclusive rights to sign him in that time.

The Penguins need to get younger. They entered the playoffs with an average age of 29.5 years old that was oldest in the NHL, and they emerged from the playoffs … well, you saw. Old and slow.

They’ve got a ton of young defensemen on the way, not least of which was Simon Despres, but the only young forward in their grasp is Beau Bennett. That’s not enough. Letang can get you a young forward or two.

By trading Letang and possibly Marc-Andre Fleury, you also wipe $10 million off the cap hit. With the cap shrinking by $7 million next year, that’s not just nice. It’s paramount.

As for the rest, sure, I’d like to keep Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray, the trade acquisitions. But only if it fits with Bennett being on the top six and all the money considerations. Would love to have Matt Cooke, too. But all that applies there, too.

>> If you missed last night’s ‘The Final Word’ on WPXI-TV, here it is in four user-friendly clips.

>> I’m taking today off, other than a quick hit with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. And tomorrow, I’ll be using Google Maps to help me find PNC Park again for Gerrit Cole’s debut.

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Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

 
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