The New Jersey Devils have a huge hole on the blue line. The team needs a number one defenseman desperately. Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup without Kris Letang, would they be willing to part with him?
When talking to New Jersey Devils fans this offseason, there are three questions being asked. Who will the team pick number one overall? What will the team do with Ilya Kovalchuk? How are the Devils going to fix the defense?
The last question may be third on the list, but could be the most important. After years of sitting in the top 15 in goals against, the Devils fell all the way to 24th. Goalie Cory Schneider was left out to dry on dozens of occasions throughout the season. This team needs to rebuild its defense, and there are no options within the system.
There are a few players on the market that could be worth the Devils time. The Anaheim Ducks could be moving Sami Vatanen for the right price. Kevin Shattenkirk is becoming a free agent after another early exit from the Washington Capitals. Darren Raddysh is coming off an OHL defenseman of the year award to become a free agent. There are options, but as you can see there aren’t a ton.
With more than half the teams in the league needed a defenseman, the competitions will be fierce for anyone on the market.
That’s why the Devils should at least ask the Penguins about Kris Letang.
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Obviously, the 30 year old defenseman has some major injury issues over the past few seasons. Even a major health issue when he dealt when he had a stroke at the age of 26. He hasn’t played a full season since 2011. The concern is major when it comes to how healthy he can be going into his 30s. He’s also recovering from neck surgery that could keep him out for another month or two.
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He also makes a ton of money. Letang is signed for the next five seasons, making $7.25 million per season. If the Devils brought Letang on, that would be a big chunk of the salary cap for a team that’s cap space is one of its assets.
The Penguins also have a lot of defenders to sign. They only have three on the roster next year, including Letang. There’s a lot of signing to do before the team can think about moving on from Letang.
The final problem is Letang’s no-trade and no-move clauses. Asking him to waive said clauses may not be enough for him to agree. The only thing the Devils have is Ray Shero, who used to be his GM.
All this may be moot, but it’s worth thinking about. Letang brings an automatic number one to a defense who desperately needs one. The Penguins learned they can win without him.