NHL Trade Rumors: Kris Letang to Toronto Maple Leafs a Possibility?

Jon Reid@@JonReidCSMCorrespondent IIJune 27, 2013

New rumors claim that Letang's preferred destination is Toronto, if something can't be worked out in Pittsburgh.
New rumors claim that Letang's preferred destination is Toronto, if something can't be worked out in Pittsburgh.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It's already been a crazy offseason in regards to NHL trade rumors for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And it's only going to get more hectic.

According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, defenseman Kris Letang's preferred destination if he cannot work out an extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins is Toronto.

Rossi also appeared on TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto to talk about the rumors (you can hear the entire interview here).

Naturally, this kind of rumor sent shockwaves through Toronto.

Considering how much of a tight-bind the Penguins are in when it comes to the salary cap—they have roughly $38 million taken up by just seven players beyond next season—this rumor may have some validity to it.

Signing Kris Letang to a deal for upwards of $7 million a season just isn't feasible, when it would leave the team with only $18 million (assuming the cap doesn't change) to sign over a dozen players.

Throw together Letang's sentiments, Pittsburgh's sticky cap situation, and Dave Nonis' comments just a few days ahead of the NHL draft—as reported by TSN's Darren Dreger and Sportsnet's Chris Johnston—and this could be something to watch for:


Some rumblings Phaneuf may be in play. Nonis says he will trade just about anyone, but says no one has called on the captain...yet. #TSN

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 23, 2013





Dave Nonis expects the #leafs to make a couple more moves before July 5.

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 23, 2013



Letang would be an incredible addition to the Leafs' blueline.

He may not be renowned for his defensive abilities, but he's no slouch on the backend. He knows how to move the puck, which should help Toronto reduce their league-worst giveaway rate from this past season.

Now consider how much more dynamic Letang would make an already-potent Toronto offense.

With the likes of Letang, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner (assuming they could keep him out of the deal), Toronto would have four defensemen that could pose a threat in the offensive zone as well.

It would also bolster both power-play units to boot.

Then there's the fact that Toronto would have the money to sign him long-term.

As of right now, they have about $20 million in cap space, with most of their free agents still being restricted. That doesn't include the potential cap space they could free up with compliance buyouts either.

Toronto should have enough cash to sign Letang long-term, re-sign their current crop of free agents, work out a new deal with Phil Kessel and even ink captain Phaneuf to a new contract at the same pay rate, or even a bit of a pay cut.

Finally, factor in that Letang is only 26 years old and you'll see why Toronto is the perfect fit.

Not only does Letang provide a boost to the defense in the short term, but at 26, he'll be a very good player for a long, long time.

Assuming Toronto could pull this trade off and use one of the team's compliance buyouts on John Michael Liles, their starting defensemen this season would be aged 28 (Phaneuf), 26 (Carl Gunnarsson), 26 (Letang), 26 (Franson), 23 (Gardiner), with one player left to sign.

While this deal could be enticing from Toronto's perspective, the price may give the Leafs some hesitation, and there could be a limited window for it to happen.

If Letang were to become a Maple Leafs player, the team would almost certainly buyout both Mike Komisarek and Liles.

That would have to be done by July 4.

If, however, that deadline arrives and a deal for Letang hasn't been formalized, the Leafs may elect to just buyout Liles, keep Komisarek buried for the last year of his contract and hold on to their second compliance buyout until next offseason as insurance, in case center Mikhail Grabovski has another disappointing season.



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