With Malkin signed, Shero wants to see where Letang stands

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Through at least the 2017-18 campaign, the Pittsburgh Penguins offense will be led by Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and James Neal. That’s a superb collection of top-end talent, but they’ll cost Pittsburgh a combined $23.2 million in cap space.

With that much already committed to three players, can the Penguins comfortably afford another expensive, long-term contract? That’s the question they have to ask themselves as they set their sights on re-signing offensive defenseman Kris Letang.

“We’ll turn our attention to Kris over the next little bit and see where we are, have those conversations and see exactly if they’re in the same ballpark of what we’re thinking,” Penguins GM Ray Shero said, according to the team’s website. “Until we get to those discussions, I don’t know what his expectations are.

“Does he want to be here? Somewhere else? It’s hard for me to know what Kris’ intentions are until I get into some sort of discussions with his agent and Kris.”

Shero sees him as a key player that he wants to re-sign. The 26-year-old blueliner is a finalist for the 2013 Norris Trophy after recording 38 points in 35 games.

Letang is entering the final season of his four-year, $14 million deal. That price proved to be a steal and there’s speculation that Letang will seek at least $7 million annually. If the Penguins give him that kind of a deal, then nearly half of their cap hit, by the standards of the 2013-14 ceiling at least, will be consumed by just four players.

With that in mind, Shero isn’t ruling out any options, including the possibility of trading Letang.

“If we don’t have a deal by the draft, does that mean we’re trading him? I can’t speculate that. I don’t even know,” he said. “I don’t want to say a player can’t be traded or will never be traded. It’s hard to do that. We’re going to get to those discussion and see, make some decisions and maybe we get into July or August with Kris Letang on a one-year contract.

“He’s under contract for next year. He doesn’t have any clause in his contract for a no-move or block whatever we would try to do, or want to do. Having said that, I want to try and get to Kris and see exactly what they have in mind, and see whether or not that will work for us. Then we can make some decisions.”