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Shero on Letang: His Best Days are Ahead

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins general manager Ray Shero made no secret of his desire to re-sign defenseman Kris Letang to a contract extension.

On Tuesday, the Penguins and Letang agreed to terms on an eight-year extension worth $58 million, a $7.25 million average annual value.

“It’s an exciting day for us,” Shero said. “It’s a great day for (Letang) and his family, and certainly a great day for the Penguins. We’ve seen him mature into one of the best defensemen in the league and Norris Trophy finalist this year. He’s only 26 years old.”

Letang had one year remaining on his current contract, which pays him $3.5 million per season. His new deal kicks in for the 2014-15 season and runs through 2021-22. Letang will be 35 years old at the conclusion of the contract.

Letang will be the fourth-highest paid defenseman in 2014-15 at $7.25 million, behind Nashville’s Shea Weber ($14 million), Minnesota’s Ryan Suter ($11) and Chicago’s Duncan Keith ($7.6).

Letang has established himself to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He had his best season in 2012-13 when he was the only blueliner in the league to average over a point per game with 38 (5G-33A) in 35 games. His 16 points (3G-13A) in 15 playoff games were the most by a defenseman in the postseason.

And Shero only sees him improving in the coming years.

“He’s a very important player for us. He’s getting better as a defenseman,” Shero said. “His best days are ahead of him. It’s fortunate for us that we can sign him and keep him playing for the Penguins.”

The Penguins and Kent Hughes, Letang’s agent, negotiated all last week. The deal started to fully come together late Saturday night. But with the NHL Draft on Sunday and both parties traveling on Monday, the final wrinkles weren’t worked out until Tuesday.

“I think it was Saturday night, it was apparent we were trending towards making a deal; the same thing Sunday morning,” Shero said. “We had to get into finalizing structure and payments of the contract over the eight years. Going back and forth on that was important to the team and the player. Usual stuff.”

One item that took some time was the language on the modified no-trade clause that is part of the contract. A modified no-trade clause gives the player some flexibility in determining his destination in the event of a trade. Several Penguins players already have such clauses in their contracts, including Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury and Paul Martin (only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have a full no-trade clause).

“They give you a certain amount of teams in the event of a trade at some point,” Shero said. “It was just getting the language right and making sure both sides were happy with that, the structure. Once you get that done it was pretty quick.

“With the modified no-trade contract, there’s some new language in there that needed to be OK’d by the league.”

The NHL approved the modified no-trade language on Monday morning. But Shero was traveling back to Pittsburgh from New Jersey and Hughes was on his way to Edmonton. With both parties settled on Tuesday, the final details were put into place.

The only thing left to do was for Letang to add his signature.

“Made a couple calls today. Kris was traveling and back home,” Shero said. “It was easy to get signed off late this afternoon.

“There was no rush or deadline. Once we were able to get the signature on the contract we were happy with where we were. We agreed to terms and can send the contract July 5th for official registration.”

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