FanPost

No Letang, No Problem

Kris Letang is a great defenseman. He skates like a rocket, hits like a hammer and moves the puck like an all star.

Rightfully so, the 26-year-old Norris finalist wants to be compensated as such. And he will be… oh he will be. But its possible Penguins GM Ray Shero wont dish out the dough to keep him.

Trigger the trade gossip and say hello to the Toronto Maple Leafs, reportedly the Montreal native’s preferred landing spot.

On the surface, a young, fast and offensively gifted defenseman sounds like a great fit for an up and coming Leafs team that succeeded this year through speed, grit and energy. Letang is the epitome of Brian Burke and Dave Nonis’ vision for this team.

But before you dream of sewing number 58 on that blue and white sweater, lets take a look at the whole picture. Adding an elite player to your roster always feels good, but adding the right elite player for the right price is more important.

Letang is demanding a long-term deal, say eight years at $8 million per year. That would make his yearly cap hit the highest amongst NHL defenseman. When all is said and done, Letang might not beat Shea Weber’s $7.9 million per year hit, but he’s likely to fetch more than Ryan Suter’s second highest figure of $7.5 million.

Toronto would also have to give up a lucrative package for Letang, and Pittsburgh’s asking price is likely no less than a first-round pick, a top prospect and a roster player.

Leaf fans have to look back no further than 2009 to understand what it takes to trade for an elite player entering their prime. The cost of Phil Kessel was steep, but the Leafs desperately needed scoring and Phil has certainly been the lifeblood of the Leafs offense since he arrived in Hogtown.

As of now, the Leafs prospect crop looks pretty sound in the speedy, offensive defensemen category.

Jake Gardiner is a puck-moving stud at 22 years-old boasting marvelous speed, slick puck-moving talent and a proven ability to play in the NHL.

2011 first round pick Stuart Percy is a solid two-way defenceman and leader, tallying 48 points in 68 games last year as captain of the Mississauga Steelheads. Percy also notched three points in four games to close off the year with the Marlies.

Finally, 2012 fifth overall pick Morgan Reilly returned from a major injury last year and scored 54 points in 60 games with Moose Jaw of the WHL. Reilly’s ability to accelerate into extreme speed, poise with the puck and effectiveness in both zones make him one of the top defensive prospects in the league.

This begs the question, why would the Leafs give up between two to four very valuable assets and pay a premium on the type of defenseman that they can replicate with young, cheap talent from their own system?

Letang plays a sling-shooting, gritty brand of hockey that takes a huge toll on his 6’0, 200-pound body. He missed 44 games over the past two years due to injuries including a concussion and a broken toe. And while his offensive stats are certainly elite, his defensive prowess does not scream value for the hefty price he’s demanding.

Letang’s play in his own zone doesn’t especially stand out, he makes his share of miscues and he coughed up the puck pretty often in Pittsburgh’s latest playoff bust. Letang failed to ignite a power play that featured the two best forwards in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, losing his quarterbacking spot to Paul Martin during their dreadful sweep to the Bruins.

The Leafs are finally starting to gather a young, talented core and management must let them grow together. Giving up a large chunk of that core and burdening the future with a mammoth contract when there are still so many needs just can’t happen. The Leafs might even already have a Kris Letang in Gardiner, Percy or Reilly.

Resist your temptations Leaf fans, Letang to the Leafs just isn’t worth it.

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