Defenseman Kris Letang reportedly has rejected one of the largest contract offers in the Pittsburgh Penguins history.
Letang, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman,declined an eight-year contract that would have paid him around $54 million, sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. However, his agent, Kent Hughes, stressed late Thursday that Letang remains only interested in playing for the Penguins.
"We have exchanged offers," Kent told the Tribune-Review in a text message. "But [we] have yet to reach an agreement.
"We have not quit."
The Penguins are willing go as high as $7 million annually -- with some wiggle room -- to keep Letang, sources told the paper, but Letang is looking for $7.5 million annually. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported that the Penguins turned down a counter-proposal that would have paid Letang $7.5 million to $8 million per season on a long-term contract.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero repeatedly has said he wants to continue building around a core of centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well as Letang, who has one year remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million.
Free agency begins July 5, and the Penguins do not want to arrive at that date without resolution on Letang's future, the sources said. If no agreement is reached, the Penguins could trade Letang, whose situation is getting close to the one the team faced with center Jordan Staal last summer. Staal rejected a contract offer from Shero prior to the 2012 NHL Draft and was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Carolina's first-round pick (No. 8), center Brandon Sutter and minor-league defense prospect Brian Dumoulin.
Letang tied for the NHL lead among defensemen in 2012-13 with 38 points despite missing 13 games with injuries.
The Penguins do not pick until the third round of the draft, scheduled for Sunday in Newark, N.J.
Earlier Thursday, the Penguins agreed to terms with 33-year-old forward Chris Kunitz on a three-year contract. The new deal, which kicks in at the start of the 2014-15 season, has an average annual value of $3.85 million, according to the club.
Kunitz led the Penguins with 22 goals in 2012-13 and was second on the team with 52 points.
The deal with Kunitz comes two weeks after the Penguins came to terms with Malkin on an eight-year deal reportedly worth $76 million.