Pens' Kris Letang must keep emotion out of contract talks | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaPens' Kris Letang must keep emotion out of contract talks

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013 | 12:00 AM

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Defenceman Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly $1 million US apart per season on a new contract. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Defenceman Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly $1 million US apart per season on a new contract. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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There are two ways to look at the fact Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly $1 million US apart per season on an eight-year contract extension. Door A: "That's nothing. Plenty of time to close that gap." Door B: "If they are that close and the news is getting out...it's bad. They can't agree and talks are breaking down."
There are two ways to look at the fact Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly $1 million US apart per season on an eight-year contract extension.

  • Door A: "That's nothing. Plenty of time to close that gap."
  • Door B: "If they are that close and the news is getting out...it's bad. They can't agree and talks are breaking down."
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun tweeted Thursday night Letang and agent Kent Hughes turned down a package worth "around" $56 million, while the Penguins said no to a counterproposal "which would pay less than $8M [north of $7.5 M]."

It is an emotional time for both the player and the team. Penguins GM Ray Shero doesn't like uncertainty. Last year, he traded Jordan Staal under the exact same circumstances. Plus, after seeing what one of his mentors, David Poile, went through with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, Shero does not want to cede control of the contract situation to the player.

In my experience, when two sides are so close and this kind of information gets out, it's Door B. There's no reason for a leak if they're inching closer, grinding each other for the last few dollars, but know a deal is coming.

This is frustration.

Letang is in control here. He knows he's getting big dough, whether in Pittsburgh or somewhere else. His "yes" or "no" determines the outcome. The only advice I would give him is this: whatever your decision, make sure you make it with a clear head.

Comments upset Letang?

According to a couple of sources, Letang was hurt and upset by comments made in this article. (For the record, Hockey Night's PJ Stock, who is a summer workout partner of Letang's, is not one of the sources).

What stung most was this passage: "Shero is fairly confident Letang has become a must-move player. That is true because Letang is not the consensus best defenceman on the Penguins, at least in the eyes of management and coaches."

Letang apparently believes someone in the organization was responsible for this and it's poisoned the process. A horrendous Eastern Conference final by almost the entire roster has blinded everyone to what's really happened here.

Letang's worked very hard over the past few seasons to become one of the best defencemen in the NHL. He's not perfect; he has to become less of a gambler. But he had 16 points in the first two post-season rounds, as many as top blue-line scorer Drew Doughty had in all of the 2012 playoffs.

It is borderline impossible to replace that. After watching Duncan Keith slalom through the Bruins in the Stanley Cup final, I'd never let Letang go if I could avoid it. He will learn from what happened, and he will get better.

Toronto connection

Rob Rossi, the writer of the above mentioned article, took heat for reporting Toronto was a potential destination if things didn't work out. It would not surprise me in the least if that came out because Letang was asking players around the league about certain destinations -- just in case.

Not that he's saying, "trade me to Toronto!" More like he's gathering intel.

When I started out in this business, Bob McCown gave me some fantastic piece of advice I've never forgotten: "Don't &%$# with happy." He warned me he'd seen people leave a good situation for a few more dollars and regretted it. He said it wasn't worth it. If someone backs up the Brinks truck, well that's another story.

He's right.

So, all I would say to Letang is this: Sit down and really think about it. Up until last week, you loved it in Pittsburgh. Is this worth the change? You know that you're always going to be a contender, always going to get points and be part of an offensive power.

I never, ever begrudge anyone demanding or receiving their full market value. We all say we'd take less until we're the ones making the decision.

If that's what Letang wants, no problem here.

But I get the sense he may be making an emotional decision. And those rarely work out right.

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