Player: Kris Letang
Born: Aprill 24, 1987
Weight: 201 pounds
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Draft: 2005, Third Round, First Pick (No, 62 overall)
2021-22 Statistics: 78 games played, 10 goals, 58 assists, 68 total points, plus-20, 49 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Letang is one of the Penguins’ many unrestricted free agents, and arguably their most important given the position he plays, his importance, and his continued high level of play. He just completed an eight-year, $58 million contract with the Penguins.
Fun facts: In his 16th NHL season and at age 34 Letang set new career highs in assists (58), even-strength points (46) and total points (68). Truly a fantastic season.
You gave Kris Letang an A for his 2020-21 season performance with 52 percent of you giving him the A mark.
Letang appeared in all seven playoff games for the Penguins against the New York Rangers, logging more than 29 minutes per game, scoring a goal, and recording three assists. When Brian Dumoulin went down with an injury he was reunited with Mike Matheson on the top-pairing with mixed results. They had their flashes of brilliance, but there were also some moments where the pairing got exposed a little bit. Overall, Letang remained the Penguins’ top defender throughout the playoffs and one of their best players.
Story of the Season
Letang was not only once again the Penguins’ best all-around defenseman, he was one of the best defensemen in the entire league. He finished the season as one of the league’s top point producers on defense and had one of the best overall seasons of his career. It is a testament not only to his skill, but also his work ethic and the way he stays in shape that he is able to still skate and play at this level in all phases of the game. He spent most of the season playing alongside Dumoulin, as he usually does, but that pairing did not have the success it usually does. A significant part of that was seemingly due to Dumoulin’s decline. The Letang-Matheson pairing, for all of its flaws in the playoffs, was actually quite strong during the regular season and one of the Penguins’ most productive pairings.
— Letang’s 10.3 individual expected goals were the most among Penguins’ defenseman. Matheson at only 7.3 was the next closest.
— Letang drew 12 penalties during the 2021-22 regular season.
— Letang’s 214 shots on goal were seventh most among NHL defensemen.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of seven defensemen on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 51.2% (5th)
Goals For%: 55.9% (1st)
xGF%: 51.7% (5th)
Scoring Chance %: 53.2% (3rd)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 51.3% (7th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 8.2% (3rd)
On-ice save%: 93.1% (2nd)
Goals/60: 0.24 (2nd)
Assist/60: 1.16 (1st)
Points/60: 1.40 (1st)
While some of Letang’s advanced numbers in terms of expected goals and high-danger scoring chances may not rate as highly as some other defenders on the team, he was still the most productive defenseman did more to drive the offense than any other blue liner on the team, while also playing the toughest assignments against other team’s top players.
It may not have been his prettiest goal, but Letang with an overtime game winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Here he picks the corner for a beautiful goal in Detroit.
Probably his prettiest goal of the season as he skates by the San Jose Sharks.
His second overtime game-winning goal of the season against the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers.
Letang showed that he is not only still one of the best players in the league, but also the player that should probably be the top priority going into free agency. It is a heck of a lot easier to find another center or winger than it is to find a top-pairing defenseman, especially one this good. This year’s crop of unrestricted free agents is woefully thin beyond Letang, so if the Penguins are not able to re-sign him they are going to have to get creative in trying to replace him.
The ideal 2022-23 for Letang happens in Pittsburgh for a 17th season with the Penguins. No matter where he plays there is every reason to believe that he is still going to be a top-tier all-around defenseman and impact player. He has not showed any sign of slowing down, and the true elites are able to maintain their excellence well into their 30s and beyond,
Question to ponder
How much money will Letang command in contract talks and will the Penguins figure out a way to make it work for both him and the team long-term?