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Pens Re-Sign Kris Letang

FILE - Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang plays during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Boston. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed veteran defenseman Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract, Thursday, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

By STEPHEN WHYNO

AP Hockey Writer

MONTREAL (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins made a key move Thursday ahead of the NHL Draft as they signed veteran Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract that carries a $6.1 million annual salary cap hit, ensuring a long-time defenseman was sticking around.

Pittsburgh may not be able to keep the entire band together, given center Evgeni Malkin is also set to be an unrestricted free agent, but general manager Ron Hextall prioritized locking up the 36-year-old Letang long term.

“The role he plays on our team is irreplaceable, he is a leader in our locker room and has made countless contributions to the organization over the last 15-plus years,” Hextall said in a statement.

Colorado and Chicago made key moves as well, with the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche making a deal to shore up their goaltending situation.

The Avalanche acquired goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers for three draft picks,

Before the draft began, the Blackhawks began their much-anticipated dismantling process by trading Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh pick and more, and the Minnesota Wild re-signed goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to a $7 million, two-year contract.

Colorado gave up third- and fifth-round picks this year and a third-rounder next year for Georgiev.

The move seems to spell the end of playoff starting goalie Darcy Kuemper’s time with the Avalanche.

The Avalanche can now pair Georgiev, who needs a new contract as a restricted free agent, with Pavel Francouz as they try to defend their third title in franchise history.

DeBrincat, 24, who set career highs with 41 goals, 37 assists and 78 points, goes to Ottawa to join a team on the rise and could soon sign a new deal to keep him there long term.

“Alex’s acquisition brings immediate and additional firepower to our forward group,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “He’s a dynamic forward who’s a scoring threat to the opponent when in the attacking zone. He maintains great vision, has exceptional skill and a quality shot which helps him score from virtually any part of the ice. He’s a consistent performer and an underrated playmaker.”

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