Should Buffalo be interested in Letang? Absolutely not
Sure, it’s easy to get excited about every big name player who might be available, especially when your team is at the bottom and looking for any signs of hope.
But the deals you don’t make are often just as important as the ones you do.
Elliotte Friedman had this to say yesterday on Kris Letang’s future with the Penguins:
“I wonder – Letang has in his contract, I think there’s 18 teams he can go to. I have no idea if Buffalo is on that list. But [if] I was Buffalo and they’re looking for D… they were the last team to get a goal from their defense in the NHL this year. If I was Buffalo I’d be kicking my tires at that for sure, and maybe Kane is the kind of thing that could be part of the deal. I don’t know. Makes sense. Pittsburgh could use Evander Kane. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall there, but I just think one of the hard things now is that I don’t know if there’s an urgency in too many teams yet, maybe outside of a Pittsburgh, to absolutely race to get something done.”
Normally, someone “just throwing stuff at the wall” isn’t worthy of lengthy discussion, but it is when it’s Friedman doing the throwing. So here goes.
If Jason Botterill decides he needs to move Evander Kane, so be it. If Letang is what he wants coming back, it’s a really bad idea.
There’s no denial here that Letang has been one of the best defensemen in the NHL for years. But the operative part there is ‘has been’. What about in the future?
Letang is now on the wrong side of age 30, there are concerns about his injury history, and he obviously wouldn’t be playing with anywhere near the same level of talent in Buffalo.
His contract, four more years at an annual cap hit of $7.25M, is the deal breaker. With Jack Eichel’s new deal kicking in next season, Letang’s financials are too rich for Botterill’s blood right now.
It’s no secret that NHL players peak in their 20’s. Letang has 59 points in his last 78 games. For some perspective, Rasmus Ristolainen, who critics don’t even think is a true top-pair defenseman, had 45 points in 79 games last season. Take a look at the difference in the forwards receiving passes from both of these players.
Here’s another eye opener: Letang only has four points (0-4-4) at 5v5 this season despite leading the Penguins in ice time.
While it’s true the Sabres need to upgrade the defense, taking on a heavy contract of someone past their prime isn’t the way to do it.
How willing the Penguins are to part with Letang is in question. But if they decide between now and the trade deadline that they’re ready to move him, I’d say no thanks.