If Norris Trophy-nominated defenceman Kris Letang can't come to a long-term deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his preferred landing spot would be with the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Speaking to Jim Tatti and Mike Hogan on TSN Radio 1050's Game Night on Wednesday, Rossi explained why such a scenario could take shape.
"Kris is a little bit curious about where he stands long range in the Penguins' plans," he told TSN Radio. "He has read reports of mine that there are people within the Pittsburgh organization that thought Paul Martin was the better defenceman last year, and there has been a sort of a hesitation on a willingness to commit to him (Letang) to a long-term deal at elite defenceman money.
"I've been told that if the Penguins couldn't reach some sort of understanding with Letang, and the belief was they wouldn't be able to sign him to some sort of deal, that Toronto has emerged as a preferred landing spot - perhaps by Letang. It would be a place that he would be willing, if dealt, to perhaps sign a long-term deal."
Where possible trades are concerned, Letang himself has no final say on who his next team would be. "We haven't discussed the Toronto Maple Leafs, period," Letang's agent Kent Hughes told TSN on Thursday morning. "Our focus has been on trying to conclude a deal with Pittsburgh."
Rossi also made it clear that Pittsburgh remains keenly interested in signing Letang to an extension.
"General manager Ray Shero has been very public since the lockout ended that he wants to retain Letang, but the Penguins have committed a lot of money to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and they have also committed no-movement clauses to both of those players," he explained. "They're very deep in their system on defence."
Letang had five goals and 33 assists in 35 games for the Penguins this season. Rossi noted that Pittsburgh's price to deal the 26-year-old Montreal native would be quite high.
"If the Penguins are going to move Letang they would want to deal with a team that could provide at least one roster player in addition to a first-round pick and a top prospect...if not two roster players in addition to a first-round pick," explained Rossi.
"But I don't think we're quite there yet and I don't know that they Penguins and Leafs have had any discussions."
The Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Draft a year ago when Staal declined to sign a long-term extension with Pittsburgh.