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Gonchar/Letang updates and why playing tonight makes more sense than playing Sunday


A quick bit of news on the status of talks between the Penguins and Ds Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang:

= GM Ray Shero is expected to meet with Gonchar’s agent next week in Vancouver, though I’ve not heard that any major progress has been made toward a new deal. As I reported in January, the sides have not agreed on the length of a possible extension, and until that happens, the finances of a possible deal really aren’t worth discussing. Based off what I’m hearing, I’d put the chance of an extension before the March 3 trade deadline at no better than 15 percent.

= I can report no real movement on discussions with Letang, who unlike Gonchar can become only a restricted free agent on July 1. The vibe I get is that Letang’s camp believes the Penguins have prioritized Gonchar, and it’s hard to argue against what he means to the team.

However, from my talks with folks in the organization, I cannot say that Letang’s value to the club moving forward is not equal to that of Gonchar’s, especially given Letang’s upside. My feeling is that the coaching staff considers him the club’s best overall defenseman on most nights. I’d put the chance of an extension before the March 3 trade deadline at no better than 10 percent.


A reminder to fans planning on attending the game tonight: Gates at Mellon Arena will open at 6 p.m.  — 30 minutes early — and the Penguins encourage patrons to use caution and common sense while traveling to the game.

Many roads near Mellon Arena remain less than ideal upon which to travel, but they are passable. However, blowing wind could cover them by evening, according to local TV meteorologists.

At practice on Tuesday most of the lots around Mellon Arena had been cleared, or were in the process of being cleared, but please allow me to back the Penguins in urging fans to use caution for getting to the game tonight.


Why I’m not opposed to the Penguins and Islanders playing tonight at Mellon Arena given my stance against the Penguins and Capitals playing Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center. Travel conditions are still awful and people are still at risk, etc.

First, the Islanders weren’t asked to board a bus for a five-hour drive in the dark of night, on potential black-ice covered roads, after flying two hours from another city just to reach Pittsburgh. Second, there is a huge difference between 3-5 inches of snow, which is the reported damage to this region from this storm, and nearly 3 feet, which is what landed upon Washington over the weekend. Third, though emergency crews are still clearing roads, reports are that about 85 percent of power and heat has been restored to local residents.

Is there a risk traveling to the game tonight? Absolutely … and there is a risk traveling through a rainstorm to attend a spring playoff game.

When risk trends toward unusually dangerous — and talking the past few days with parties involved in Pens-Caps on Sunday has not steered me from the assessment that playing that game put teams, NHL personnel, fans and arena employees in harm’s way — well, that is when I say postponement of a game is the best option.

Today’s conditions are not unusually dangerous by normal winter standards for this region. The snowfall levels in D.C. over the weekend were, by the estimation of the majority of folks in that area, unusually dangerous.

Thoughts and questions are always welcome. Send e-mails to E-mails without writers’ full name and current hometown will not be read.




Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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