The Penguins can’t replace Kris Letang. No defenseman on the Pens can step up and do what Letang does.

But the Penguins do have an X factor on defense.

It’s Trevor Daley, now that he’s healthy.

Daley has crazy wheels. If required, he can play lots of minutes. His skills aren’t as polished as Letang’s. He’s not as direct. But Daley is a savvy player who can skate the puck out of the Penguins’ end, or into the offensive zone.

Daley gets mad respect from his teammates. Daley got hurt and didn’t play in last year’s Stanley Cup Final. When the Penguins won and Sidney Crosby got the Cup, he handed it to Daley. That spoke volumes.

Daley only played 56 games this season, including just two games at season’s end after getting injured in late February. That’s perversely positive. He’s well-rested. Daley has a good and trusted partner in Olli Maatta, who will stay at home while Daley operates.

The Penguins will eliminate Columbus, and Daley will be a big factor – and perhaps a bigger factor moving forward.

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