“Letang is healthy now,” Rutherford told NHL.com on Saturday. “And he makes up for a lot, even with the loss of (Trevor) Daley and (Ron) Hainsey.”
The veteran defender missed Pittsburgh’s entire 2017 post-season run after enduring a herniated disk in his neck, which required surgery in April. It appears he’ll soon be able to resume contributing as the club’s No. 1 option on the back end, however.
“I would expect a regular workload and I’m sure that’s what he expects,” Rutherford said. “He wants to play 40 minutes a game, but I think the coaches will just take it a day or a week or a game at a time and see where it goes. I would suspect that he would probably ease his way into the pre-season and then go from there.”
Letang posted 34 points through 41 games in 2016-17, one year removed from a career-best 67-point effort 2015-16. He logged an average of 28:53 minutes of ice time during the first of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back championships, posting 15 points through 23 playoff games.