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Malkin And Letang Could Be Edging Closer to Free Agency

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are among the biggest names slated to become UFAs on July 13. There appears to be little progress in contract talks between the Pittsburgh Penguins and their long-time stars.

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are among the biggest names slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 13. There appears to be little progress in contract talks between the Pittsburgh Penguins and their long-time stars.

Malkin seems the most likely to depart. The Athletic's Josh Yohe reported the two sides hadn't held regular contract discussions since the Penguins opened talks in mid-May. He cited numerous player agents and some team sources considering it unlikely the 35-year-old center returns to Pittsburgh.

Yohe indicated Malkin is willing to accept a pay cut from his current $9.5 million but it's uncertain how low he'll go. Despite his age and injury history, he remains a point-per-game player who would be difficult for the Penguins to replace.

As for Letang, Yohe reports the Penguins very much want to re-sign the 35-year-old defenseman, who's coming off a career-best 68-point campaign. He's also completing an eight-year contract worth an annual salary-cap hit of $7.25 million. The Pens have reportedly offered him a three-year extension but Yohe indicates he's seeking a five-year deal worth between $8 million and $9 million annually.

It's understandable why the Penguins would offer three years given Letang's age. Perhaps they'll go up to $8 million per season on that type of deal. With Cap Friendly showing 19 clubs carrying less than $20 million in cap space this summer, Letang could encounter difficulty finding other teams willing to meet his asking price.

On Jun 12, Yohe's colleague Rob Rossi reported the Penguins want to know how much it'll cost to re-sign Letang before shifting their attention to Malkin. Now that they know, they must decide if he's worth the risk of losing one of their top forwards.

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