Rumor: Penguins 'tempted' to trade Kris Letang.

Could the big three break up?

HockeyFeed

The Pittsburgh Penguins are under new management with general manager Ron Hextall at the helm and president of hockey operations Brian Burke overseeing the entire project and there's no question that changes are on the horizon. 

There's been an expectation that the injection of new management will bring significant changes to the team but all that we've heard since they've taken on their new roles has been that the Penguins big 3, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are untouchables. At least that was the case until last week when one very credible Penguins insider revealed his belief that, although he does not expect the trade will happen in season, the new Penguins management has indeed been tempted with the prospect of sending Kris Letang somewhere else. 

Here's what Penguins insider Josh Yohe had to say in The Athletic last week:

So, what to do with him? My guess is that the Penguins will keep him this season. Oh, I bet they’re tempted to move him. He’s been really bad for his standards, which are extremely high. But how much would the Penguins reasonably get in a trade for him? Other teams are watching how he’s playing, too.

If I were to be blunt I would say that the 33 year old Letang, who turns 34 in April, is a shell of the player he once was for the Penguins in his prime, although admittedly he seems to have found his game again in the latter stages of this current season. Of the big 3 he seems like the most likely to eventually be traded but long gone are the days of 67 points in just 71 games from the blue liner and there's a real question about what kind of return Hextall and Burke could expect to see in a trade involving Letang.

Some have argued that this would be addition by subtraction, there's no question that clearing Letang's cap hit of $7.25 million off the books would certainly give the new management a lot of room to work with, but Yohe argues that the prospect of having either Cody Ceci or Chad Ruhwedel taking on top 4 minutes makes that unrealistic. You're also going to have a hard time finding any NHL team willing to take on that much money without either getting some serious compensation or sending back an equally bad contract the other way.

There may very well be an appetite from new management to trade Letang, but it's going to be a lot easier said than done.