Penguins problems: Letang trade rumors, injuries abound

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Much like their division rivals in Brooklyn, injuries are really putting a damper on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Wednesday win, and health issues aren’t the only negative headlines plaguing the Penguins.

As he deals with his own injury issues, trade rumblings continue to swirl around struggling star defenseman Kris Letang.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman discussed the matter on Hockey Night in Canada recently, while Friedman backed up more of those rumblings in his latest “31 Thoughts” column, somewhat surprisingly discussing a possible move involving Montreal. DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Matt Gajtka backed them up, reporting that a source told him that Letang is “definitely” available on the trade market.

Yikes.

On one hand, Friedman lays out some of the Penguins’ concerns: Letang is costly both in salary and term ($7.25 million cap hit through 2021-22) and has had serious health issues, with not just concussion issues but even stroke symptoms.

Still, it’s not lost on observers that the Penguins would be “selling low” on Letang, a blueliner who’s struggled mightily at times in 2017-18.

Friedman rightly notes that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford isn’t afraid to make big moves, but run this exercise for a moment: try to picture a situation where Pittsburgh gets even close to equal value for Letang. Considering the team wants to take a few more swings at the fence rather than going into any sort of rebuild, it’s tough to imagine that working out well for anyone.

(Even a Letang for picks and prospects situation is very, very troubling.)

It’s all very unsettling, and it’s not the only bit of queasy information for Penguins fans who might just want to celebrate the team’s continued frustration of John Tortorella this afternoon.

The Penguins trotted out an array of injury updates on Thursday, and there’s a lot of bad. Along with Letang being out for Pittsburgh’s next game, Matt Murray won’t be available either, with the only good-ish news being that the goalie is only considered day-to-day. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel is considered week-to-week while forward Bryan Rust is out “longer term,” with both dealing with upper-body injuries.

Considering that Justin Schultz is also on the shelf, the Penguins are once again dealing with a slew of ailments.

Oh yeah, and the Penguins also face tough sledding to make the playoffs; as of today, they trail the Rangers and Islanders (44 points in 37 games) by three points, and the Penguins have played in 38 games. That’s not an insurmountable gap, yet it’s not the happiest situation, either.

You know what would add clouds to an already dour forecast? Making a terrible trade involving Kris Letang. Penguins fans must hope that those rumblings end up being a distant memory in a few months, much like these struggles and injuries.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.