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Carolina hopes strong defense brings end to playoff drought

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes have assembled quite a crowd on defense.

The Hurricanes brought in two established defensemen this offseason – trading for Dougie Hamilton, and signing Calvin de Haan. That means seven players for six spots on game nights, and they hope the strength in those numbers will finally end the NHL’s longest active playoff drought.

And while No. 2 overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov and 2017 first-rounder Martin Necas will draw much of the attention, the strength of this team could be a defensive unit that ranks among the best in the Eastern Conference.

”Being able to play with some of the talent on that back end was going to make my life a lot easier,” de Haan said Tuesday. ”And hopefully they can say the same thing about me one day.”

Carolina was the only team in the league last season to allow fewer than 29 shots on goal per game, but they were just 22nd in the league in goals allowed (253).

The additions of Hamilton and de Haan strengthens a young defensive group centered around Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, both of whom last year signed long-term deals that will keep them with the Hurricanes well into the 2020s, and a series of offseason transactions left 26-year-old Justin Faulk as the group’s longest-tenured player.

”I’m the grayhair on the back end,” de Haan said, ”and I’m only 27.”

Carolina picked up Hamilton from Calgary in a five-player trade at the draft that cost the Hurricanes another young defenseman – Noah Hanifin – and signed former New York Islander de Haan to a four-year free-agent contract in July. All seven of the defensemen are under contract for the 2019-20 season, too, except for former first-round pick Haydn Fleury – who will be a restricted free agent, giving Carolina the right to match any offer he receives.

”I think we’re going to have a really young group of guys,” Hamilton said, ”and it’ll be fun to see where we can take it.”

Hamilton, who shared the NHL lead among defensemen with 17 goals last season and has had four straight seasons with at least 42 points, gives the Hurricanes some offensive punch from the blue line. Carolina’s top-scoring defenseman last season was Hanifin, who had 32 points. Meanwhile, de Haan looks to step right in and replace Hanifin on the left side.

Those two would appear to join Pesce and Slavin as the top four, with Faulk – whose plus-minus rating was a career-worst minus-26 and whose 31 points were his worst since 2012-13 – slipping to a lower rung along with Trevor van Riemsdyk or Fleury.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to bring an end to that pesky playoff drought.

The Hurricanes have made the playoffs just once – in 2009 – since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006. If they miss the postseason again this year, they’ll tie the NHL record for consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, a dubious mark set by Florida from 2001-11 and matched by Edmonton from 2007-17.

Carolina has ”a lot of talented, young guys in the system, and the guys we brought in are great players, so that will be exciting, make everybody better and push one another,” van Riemsdyk said. ”I think our D-corps looks really good, and it’s an exciting time to be in Raleigh and hopefully we can make that step and make the playoffs and make some noise this year.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MORE HURRICANES COVERAGE:
2017-18 review
Under Pressure: Scott Darling
Three questions

PHT Power Rankings: Best trades of the summer

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It is the summer and with no games being played at the moment it is awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. So the PHT Power Rankings will spend the next month taking a look back at some of the best (and worst) developments in the NHL, both past and present. Best trades. Worst trades. Best all-time teams. Any other random things we feel like ranking. This week we look step into the present and look at the best trades that have been made (so far) this summer.

The two big trades we all expected to happen at this point this summer were Erik Karlsson and Max Pacioretty. To this point neither one has happened and it seems increasingly likely neither one will happen before the start of the season. Even though we are still waiting on the two blockbuster trades, there were still some big names changing teams this summer, some of which will make a huge impact for their new teams.

Today we take a look at the 10 trades from this summer (so far) that might help their new teams the most.

1. Carolina gets Dougie Hamilton. Of all the players to get traded this offseason (so far) none of them have the potential to make a greater impact than Hamilton. He may not be Erik Karlsson, but he is still an outstanding player.

At age 25 he is in the middle of what should be his peak years in the NHL, he is already a legitimate top-pairing defenseman, and he is still signed for another three seasons at what is probably a steal of a salary cap hit ($5.75 million per season). He is coming off of a 2017-18 season in Calgary where he led all defenseman in goals with 17 and was one of the best possession players in the league, finishing with a 57 percent shot attempt share. Given the makeup of the Hurricanes roster it was a little surprising to see them add to the defense (probably already their strength) but when you have an opportunity to add impact talent you can’t really pass that up. Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin are good players, but neither one is likely to ever make the impact that Hamilton does and will continue to make. With Carolina still holding on to Justin Faulk its defense has the potential to be outstanding over the next few years with him, Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, and free agent addition Calvin de Haan.

An underrated part of this deal for Carolina: It also got Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox as part of the package. Ferland was just as productive as Lindholm this past season and for a cheaper price. He will be in line for a new contract after this season, but it’s a strong trade all around for Carolina.

[Related: Hurricanes acquire Hamilton from Flames]

2. St. Louis gets Ryan O'ReillyThis trade raised some eyebrows simply due to the number of assets the Blues gave up, shipping Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and a couple of draft picks to the Sabres. It was definitely a lot to give up for one player. But what if that one player offers more value than the sum of the parts you gave up? Thompson is an intriguing young player, and the draft picks are a couple of lottery tickets that may or may not amount to anything. Beyond that, Sobotka and Berglund probably had contracts the Blues were looking to jettison. There is a lot of value in a 60-point center that plays the defensive game O’Reilly plays without taking penalties.

3. Buffalo gets Jeff Skinner. After years of rumors and speculation the Carolina Hurricanes finally went through with the Jeff Skinner trade and the return was … underwhelming. Skinner’s no-trade clause and ability to choose where he went no doubt handcuffed the Hurricanes in this situation, but in terms of talent-for-talent it is not a great exchange for them.

Cliff Pu is an intriguing prospect and they added three future draft picks to their cupboard (giving them 18 over the next two years). Still, this is a big win for Buffalo, even if Skinner doesn’t re-sign before being eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. He is one of the better goal-scorers in the league, and while there always seems to be some kind of concern about his health (he has had some concussion issues in the past) he has only missed 19 games over the past five seasons (and only eight over the past four). During that same stretch he is 16th in the league in goals scored, giving Buffalo some much-needed goal-scoring punch on the wing.

Even if the Sabres end up being lousy again and they can’t get Skinner to re-sign they can easily flip him at the deadline and get back some of the draft pick capital they gave up in the original trade.

4. Colorado gets Philipp Grubauer. Having Grubauer this high on the list is all about potential, because if he ends up being the player he showed that he can be in his limited time with the Washington Capitals he could be a massive addition both in the short-and long-term.

Goalies can be difficult to project, especially when they have such a limited NHL track record, but among goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games over the past three seasons only two (Antti Raanta at .926 and John Gibson at .924) have a higher save percentage than .923 mark Grubauer produced.

He has, at the very least, earned the opportunity to be a full-time starter to see what he can do and it was never going to happen in Washington with Braden Holtby already in place. The Avalanche only had to give up a second-round and take on the final year of Brooks Orpik‘s contract (which they promptly bought out) to get him. Combined with Grubauer’s new contract and the buyout hit from Orpik’s deal that’s a $14 million investment over the next three years and a second-round pick. If Grubauer becomes the player the Avalanche think he can, be that is a tremendous trade.

5. Arizona gets Alex GalchenyukGalchenyuk gets a chance for a fresh start on a new team that might actually trust him a little bit more and give him an opportunity to excel at center. Along with Derek Stepan and (maybe, hopefully) Dylan Strome, the Coyotes will have a pretty intriguing look down the middle that should give them a chance to compete.

To land Galchenyuk they had to give up Max Domi, whose 18 goals over the past two seasons were less than Galchenyuk scored just this past season.

Given his previous production, skill level, and his underlying numbers from a year ago there is very good reason to believe Galchenyuk can once again be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, perhaps even as soon as this season. He is only a few months older than Domi and their cap hits are similar. Put it all together and this has the potential to be a strong one-for-one trade for the Coyotes.

[Related: Six teams that improved the most this summer]

6. Florida gets Mike HoffmanHoffman is a producitve player and still signed for two more years at a fair price. He is a steady 20-goal, 55-to 60-point player and under normal circumstances would either still be in Ottawa or have been traded for a significantly better return. These were not normal circumstances as the Senators have devolved into the most dysfunctional organization in the league, with Hoffman and his fiancee being at the center of some of it. As a result, he ended up getting traded twice this offseason harassment allegations against his fiancee.  Senators general manager Pierre Dorion addressed the trade and said their locker room was “broken.” It was clearly a bad situation beyond repair.

7. Buffalo gets Conor Sheary. Buffalo ended up getting Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick in what was strictly a salary dump trade for the Pittsburgh Penguins. All it cost Buffalo was a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and some future salary commitments to Sheary and Hunwick. Sheary is the intriguing one here because even after three years in the NHL we are still not really sure what he is. A lot of his success in Pittsburgh was almost certainly the result of playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and when he is not putting the puck in the net there is not much else that he does to provide value. You can live with a player like that if they score 30 or 40 goals. Sheary is not that type of player, though. Still, given the cost Buffalo had to give up (very little) and the fact it had the salary cap space to take on the two contracts it is an okay gamble for a team that needs an influx of talented players.

8. Ottawa gets Mikkel Boedker. This was the main part of Ottawa’s return for Hoffman when it dealt him to the San Jose Sharks. Along with Boedker, the Senators also picked up a prospect and a sixth-round draft pick. Given the off-ice situation it’s not a surprise that the Senators did not get full value for Hoffman in return, but it looks even worse when the Sharks were able to turn around and deal Hoffman later that same day to the Florida Panthers — a team in Ottawa’s division — for what was probably better return than the Senators received.

9. New York Islanders get Matt Martin. Martin was a popular player in his first stop with the Islanders as a part of their physical fourth line, but his return in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs does not make much sense. Just another fourth-liner with a multi-year contract being added to a team that already has a lot of fourth-liners on multi-year contracts. The optics of it are especially bad when it came just days after the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares away from the Islanders in free agency and the trade simply helping the Maple Leafs create some additional salary cap space.

10. Chicago dumps Marian Hossa‘s contract. Honestly I’m not really sure who the real winner here is but it was a pretty big trade just for the salary cap ramifications and the names involved.

Arizona was once again the dumping ground for a contract another NHL team didn’t want, this time taking on the remainder of Marian Hossa’s deal. Arizona picked up Vinnie Hinostroza to add some depth to its forward group, while Chicago ended up getting back Marcus Kruger and no longer has to worry about Hossa’s $5.25 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons. I still wonder if maybe Arizona could have done better in this deal in exchange for taking on Hossa’s contract (it is not like Chicago had many other options or teams that would be willing or able to take on that deal) but the Hinostroza for Kruger swap is probably a plus for them.

More PHT Power Rankings: The NHL’s worst alternate jerseys

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hurricanes continue to strengthen defense with Calvin de Haan signing

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The Carolina Hurricanes are building what could be one heck of a defense.

After acquiring Dougie Hamilton from the Calgary Flames earlier this offseason in a blockbuster trade, the Hurricanes dipped into the free agent market on Tuesday night by signing former New York Islanders blue liner Calvin de Haan to a four-year contract that will pay him $18.2 million. That comes out to a salary cap number of $4.55 million per season.

The 27-year-old de Haan was limited to just 33 games for the Islanders during the 2017-18 season but has proven to be a strong defensive player throughout his career when healthy.

“Calvin is a solid, puck-moving defenseman who will bring a veteran presence to the blue line,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell in a statement released by the team. “He is a strong two-way player who is capable of shutting down opponents’ top lines, and he will help solidify the left side and upgrade our defense.”

[Related: Six NHL teams that improved the most this summer (so far)]

This creates a couple of questions for where the Hurricanes go from here.

Does the addition of de Haan, along with the recent trade for Hamilton, increase the odds that Justin Faulk gets traded at some point this summer for additional offensive help?

Or do the Hurricanes keep Faulk and go forward with a defense that, on paper, looks to be incredibly strong and could be one of the best in the NHL?

Hamilton, Faulk, de Haan, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce has the makings of a tremendous blue line for both the short-and long-term, as de Haan is the oldest player in that group while all of them are signed for at least the next two years.

For as much as the Hurricanes struggled last season in goal prevention they were once again one of the best shot suppression teams in the league, allowing just 28.9 shots on goal per game, the lowest total in the league. During 5-on-5 play they allowed just 52.2 total shot attempts per 60 minutes. That was the second-lowest mark in the league, behind only the Boston Bruins.

The issue, as it has always been, was in net where Scott Darling and Cam Ward were unable to give them consistent play.

The Hurricanes allowed Ward to leave in free agency this summer (he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks) and took a flier on former Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek. They also have a pretty big investment in Darling and have to be hoping that he is able to bounce back from a disappointing debut season with the team. With better goaltending there is a lot to like about this team. But it seems like we say this every single year about the Hurricanes. At some point it would be nice to see it actually happen.

Meanwhile, de Haan’s signing in Carolina continues what has just been a brutal week for the New York Islanders as they lost him and John Tavares, while accumulating a collection of fourth liners.

Related: Hurricanes get Dougie Hamilton from Calgary Flames

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Six NHL teams that improved the most this summer (so far)

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The start of the NHL season is still a few months away and there is obviously time for a lot to change between now and then when it comes to roster movement.

Erik Karlsson is still likely to get traded.

Artemi Panarin and Max Pacioretty could get traded.

There are still probably a handful of bargain bin free agents floating around that are capable of making some sort of an impact. There are still ways for the 31 general managers to improve their rosters before the puck drops on the 2018-19 regular season.

So while it is probably still a little early to officially determine the winners and losers of the offseason, we can at least take a look at which teams have done the most to improve themselves so far.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs — Uh, this one is pretty obvious, right? The Maple Leafs, already loaded with young impact talent at forward, added one of the best players in the league in John Tavares on the first day of free agency and that alone makes them better.

The Maple Leafs still have some work to do when it comes to solidifying their blue line, but you can’t fault them for adding Tavares. When you have a chance to add a player of that caliber (and it is rare that you do) you have to take advantage of that. Now they have a 1-2-3 center group of Auston Matthews, Tavares, and Nazem Kadri that is every bit as good as any other center trio in the league.

[Related: John Tavares signs with Maple Leafs]

2. Carolina Hurricanes — A lot here depends on whether or not they trade Jeff Skinner and/or Justin Faulk and what they might end up getting for them in return. Overall, though, this has been a strong offseason for the Hurricanes. Still not sold on their goaltending situation and until that gets fixed that is probably always going to be the thing that holds them back, but can Petr Mrazek really be any worse than Cam Ward was? And, hey, Scott Darling really has nowhere to go but up after a dismal debut with the team. So there is that.

The real encouraging news comes from the fact they were fortunate enough to address probably their second biggest need (after goaltending) when they selected goal-scoring sniper Andrei Svechnikov with the No. 2 overall pick.

Then they went and traded for Dougie Hamilton (full trade here), a borderline elite defenseman, to strengthen their blue line.

Hamilton led all defenseman in goals last season, is a dominant possession player, is still only 25 years old, and is signed for three more seasons at $5.75 million per season, — a steal of a price given his production. Hamilton’s addition perhaps could give them some added flexibility to maybe trade Faulk for help elsewhere, or perhaps even better, simply keep him and continue to build what could be an outstanding defense around those two, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce.

Update: The Hurricanes continued to strengthen their defense on Tuesday by signing Calvin de Haan, formerly of the New York Islanders, to a four-year, $18 million contract in free agency.

3. Philadelphia Flyers — The Flyers seem like an intriguing possibility for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, given need, cap space, and perhaps even assets that could be traded. Will it actually happen? Well, probably not, but it sure is fun to think about. As far as actual moves the team has made, bringing back James van Riemsdyk was a strong addition in free agency as it gives the Flyers some much-needed secondary scoring punch.

Once you got below Tavares on the list of available free agents van Riemsdyk was probably the best pure offensive name available on the market and still at an age where a long-term contract (in this case five years) wasn’t a massive gamble.

He has scored at least 27 goals in four of the past five seasons, a stretch where he has been one of the best goal-scorers (both at even-strength and in all situations) in the entire league.

[Related: Five logical landing spots for Erik Karlsson]

4. St. Louis Blues — The immediate reaction to the Blues’ acquisition of Ryan O'Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres seemed to be one of shock because of the number of pieces going the other way. But that is just it. It was a quantity over quality package, and when you break down the assets that the Blues gave up how many of them were actually something that they might truly miss?

Prospect Tage Thompson and the first-round pick are obviously the key pieces. But what else are the Blues going to miss?

Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka turned into contracts that the Blues probably no longer wanted, and a second-round pick (probably one in the second half of that round) is nothing more than a lottery ticket with low odds of turning into anything impactful. At the end of the day the Blues still got what was by far the best player in the trade.

They also added Tyler Bozak and David Perron in free agency, two players that will probably end up outproducing what Berglund and Sobotka provided (or will provde). The Blues were 24th in the NHL in goals this past season and needed to do something to address that. They absolutely did address it.

[Related: Blues acquire Ryan O’Reilly from Sabres]

5. Arizona Coyotes — There is reason for optimism in Arizona. They kept their franchise player in Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a long-term contract, they have some outstanding young talent starting to emerge from their farm system, and after a miserable first half of the 2017-18 season they finished on a very strong note by going 17-10-2 over their final 29 games (that would be a 101-point pace over 82 games). How much that carries over to this upcoming season obviously remains to be seen, but for the second offseason in a row they made some big additions.

They landed a potential impact player in Alex Galchenyuk in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for Max Domi, and then dipped into the free agent market by bringing in speedster Michael Grabner. Grabner has his flaws, but his speed can cause havoc during 5-on-5 play and the penalty kill while they have more than enough salary cap space to handle his three-year, $10 million contract. Those additions, combined with what will hopefully be a full year from Antti Raanta and perhaps the development of Dylan Strome could make Arizona a surprise team in the Western Conference. Especially in a Pacific Division that is completely wide open.

6. Los Angeles Kings — The Kings didn’t really do much to make themselves younger or faster, and there are some questions as to how much he has left in the tank given his age and the fact he spent the past five years playing in Russia, but Ilya Kovalchuk gives the Kings the type of offensive weapon they desperately needed this past season. I still don’t love the Kings’ long-term outlook, but Kovalchuk could be a pretty big addition and makes them better in the short-term even if he is not the 40-goal, point-per-game player he was during his prime years in the NHL.

[ProHockeyTalk’s NHL 2018 free agency tracker]

More NHL Free agency:
Paul Stastny smart addition for Golden Knights
Kings add Kovalchuk on three-year contract
Penguins make it official with Jack Johnson, bring back Matt Cullen

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Penguins should bet on a Kris Letang rebound

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The relationship between Kris Letang and Pittsburgh Penguins fans. Sometimes it’s complicated.

For more than a decade Letang has been a No. 1 defenseman for the Penguins, and for many of those years he has been a top-10, and at times maybe even a top-five, player in the league at his position. But there’s always been a sense (at least from this perspective) that he has never really been fully appreciated for just how good he has been, and the criticisms are always the same.

Turns the puck over too much.

Not good in his own end and takes too many chances.

Makes too much money.

Gets hurt too much.

There is an element of truth to some of that, but it doesn’t mean what his harshest critics think it means. Yes, he is guilty of turnovers at times. But so is every high-level player that plays a lot of minutes and always has the puck on their stick. Take a look at the NHL’s leaders in giveaways at the end of any season. It is a list of All-Stars. He does take some chances and at times gambles, whether it be pinching in the offensive zone or trying to make a play out of his own zone. But that is also a part of what makes him the dynamic player that he is. He is capable of doing things and making plays due to his skating and skill that other players not only can not make, but probably can not even attempt.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

It basically comes down to this: He is going to make some mistakes, but as long as the positive plays outweigh the negative plays you have to to take the bad with the good.

Sometimes his freakish athletic ability makes it possible for him to wipe out his own mistake with a brilliant play of its own.

And while he has missed a significant portion of his career due to injury, he’s probably been a little underpaid given the market rate for top-pairing defenseman that play at his level.

But because the bad plays are usually the result of that aggressiveness they will stand out more. And because hockey is a game of mistakes, we tend to focus almost exclusively on that big mistake when it happens and allow it to drive the discussion around that player.

That brings us to Letang’s 2017-18 season (and postseason) for the Penguins. To be fair, it was not a great season, and it reached its low point in Game 5 of the team’s second-round series when a third period breakdown allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to score a game-tying goal just one minute into the third period, completely changing the direction of the series. The series ended with Letang trying to chase Kuznetsov down from behind on a breakaway as he potted the series-clinching goal. Viewed in the context of the Penguins actually winning the Stanley Cup a year ago without having Letang for any of the playoff games, it made him a focal point for blame when the team did not win this season (nevermind that they probably do not win that Stanley Cup the previous year without him, this is the ultimate what have you done for me lately business).

What made this season even tougher for Letang is that it wasn’t just the mistakes of aggressiveness or the Game 5 blunder against Kuznetsov that made it an off year for him. He seemed to get beat in one-on-one situations more often than usual. He also saw a pretty sharp decline in his offensive production and by the end of the year and playoffs was replaced by Justin Schultz on the team’s top power play unit.

Physically, Letang has been through hell and back in recent years due to both injury and health issues.

The most recent example was the neck injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season and all of the playoffs.

On Wednesday’s locker clean out day in Pittsburgh, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he had an inclination that the injury, surgery, and recovery in such a short period of time was probably going to be a lot for Letang to overcome.

He also talked about the inconsistency.

“He had stages of the year where he was really good for us and stages where he wasn’t at his best,” said Sullivan. “By no means does it diminish what we think of Kris as a player. He’s a guy that we think is certainly one of the elite defensemen in the league.”

Letang himself admitted that he thought it would be easier to come back and that he might have lost a little bit of his conditioning.

The thing about Letang is that for all of the struggles he had at times this year there were still elements of his game that were in place.

Fifty-one points in 79 games was a down year for him. That still placed him 17th in the league among all defenders in the NHL.

When he was on the ice the Penguins attempted more than 55 percent of the total shot attempts during even-strength play. Among defenders that played at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time that was the 12th best mark in the entire league, so the team was still controlling possession and the shot chart, which should be seen as an encouraging sign. Players that help drive possession that much usually see that pay off when it comes to goals for and against. But of the top-20 defenders in the league in shot attempt percentage, Letang was one of just five that had a negative on-ice goal differential on the season. The other four (Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifan, and Brett Pesce) all played for the Carolina Hurricanes, a team with infamous goaltending issues.

Part of Letang’s issue when it came to goals for and against was his own inconsistency.

Another part of it was the Penguins’ inconsistent goaltending, both from starter Matt Murray when he was healthy, as well his revolving door of backups that all struggled. Improved play from that position would go a long way toward correcting both his and the Penguins’ 5-on-5 issues as a team (because it wasn’t just Letang that struggled in those situations for the Penguins this season).

In the end, though, he is capable of more than he showed this season, and everybody involved knows it.

That is why no matter how much criticism he takes, how many times there is a call for the Penguins to trade him, they are not going to do it. They shouldn’t do it, anyway. Because when Letang is right and on top of his game there are only a small handful of players in the NHL that are better than him at his position, and you are never going to get that upside back in a trade.

Especially now when his value is probably at an all-time low given the injury recovery and the fact he is coming off of a down year. Part of what made the Penguins such a success the past few years was pouncing on trade partners that were dealing players at lower value (Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, and Schultz all come to mind). The good player usually rebounds. The good — and smart — teams usually make sure it happens for them and not somebody else.

Given his track record there is every reason to believe he can — and probably will — get back to that level.

The Penguins should be more than willing to take that bet that he gets there next season.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.