NHL Rumors: Kris Letang is Penguins top priority, and offer sheet for Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko

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Today’s NHL Rumors looks at the latest regarding the Pittsburgh Penguins and unrestricted free agent Kris Letang. Then we head over to New York to check in on the Rangers and RFA Kaapo Kakko.

After the season ended, Penguins’ GM Ron Hextall said that he had talks with both his key UFA’s Evgeni Malkin and Letang. His goal was to see them finish their careers in Pittsburgh.

According to CapFriendly, the Penguins have around $23 million in cap space to sign them and also fill out the roster.

NHL Rumors: Penguins make Kris Letang a top priority

Letang, 34, completed the final season of a contract that came with an AAV of $7.25 million. This year, he’s registered 68 points in 78 games and added another 4 points in 7 playoff contests.

Per Rob Rossi of The Athletic, Letang is now the Penguins top offseason priority.

Letang is the Penguins’ top defenseman. He said after the Penguins’ postseason ended that he would like to play for at least another five seasons, and there is optimism among club management and his representation that a deal can be reached to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in July, the sources said.

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If Letang is unable to reach a deal with the Penguins, some have speculated he may want to play for his hometown Montreal Canadiens. Although, at his age it doesn’t seem like a fit for the rebuilding Habs.

Malkin, 35, finished the year with 42 points in 41 games. He wrapped up a deal worth $9.5M AAV against the cap and is the most interesting UFA with the Penguins.

The general consensus is that he will come to terms with Pittsburgh to keep the band led by Sidney Crosby together.

NHL Rumors: An offer sheet for Rangers Kaapo Kakko?

nhl rumors
Apr 13, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) celebrates his goal with center Barclay Goodrow (21) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have a busy offseason ahead with a number of UFA’s and RFA’s to sign. Their biggest issue is just having $13.5M in cap space to get the job done.

That’s why the big interest is whether they will keep Ryan Strome or Andrew Copp as their top UFA re-signing.

On the RFA front, Kaapo Kakko looms large. The former #2 pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft just completed his entry-level contract and is up for a new deal.

Kakko, 21, recorded just 18 points in 43 games this season after three stints on the injured list. For his three-year career, he’s managed just 58 points in 157 matches. Without salary arbitration rights, the Rangers have all the leverage with a 2-year bridge deal around $2M AAV being the most likely outcome.

There is however the Jespri Kotkaniemi offer sheet scenario to consider.

Per Mollie Walker of the NY Post, she estimates that number to be between $4.2 and $6.3 million for the Rangers not to match.

Ideally, the Rangers would want to sign the Finnish winger to a two-year bridge deal in the $2 million-$2.5 million range. But should Kakko wish to entertain offer sheets, which could fall between $4.2 million and $6.3 million, the Rangers wouldn’t be able to match that. 

NY Post

Although there is a threat of an offer sheet like what the Hurricanes did to the Canadiens for Kotkaniemi, it comes with great risk. Kotkaniemi didn’t exactly light it up after signing and then extending for 8 years.