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Are the Pens leaning towards trading Letang? (Updated)

Kris Letang

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) plays during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The Islanders won 4-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


Kris Letang may have played his last game for the Pittsburgh Penguins, if a pair of reports from a couple of NHL insiders are accurate.

First up is ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who believes the Norris Trophy finalist is seeking no less than $7 million a year in a contract extension.

Would the Penguins be able to afford that, given all the money they’ve already committed to star forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal?

The Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi doesn’t think so.

In fact, Rossi reports that Pens general manager Ray Shero is “fairly confident Letang has become a must-move player.”

That is true because Letang is not the consensus best defenseman on the Penguins, at least in the eyes of management and coaches.

That is true because the Penguins are deepest on defense among top prospects, including a couple of first-round picks from last summer (Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta).

Letang, 26, finished tied for the scoring lead among NHL defenseman in 2013, with 38 points in 35 games. But it’s fair to ask how much of his point production is tied to playing on a team loaded with dangerous forwards. Is he good enough defensively to command the money he’s reportedly going to be requesting?

Only four defensemen -- Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Brian Campbell, and Drew Doughty -- have a cap hit of $7 million or higher.

According to LeBrun, Shero and Letang’s agent, Kent Hughes, are set to meet today in Boston. So whatever ends up happening, we may know it sooner than later.

Update (1:50 p.m. ET)