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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.

ARRIVE EARLY

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.

SOME OF YOU MIGHT BE ASKING…

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 hockeyday@tribweb.com. E-mails without writers’ full name and current hometown will not be read.

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

Comments

  1. ConcernedPensfan says:

    I found it interesting that one story reported that the Washington Capitals did not send the team’s equipment van to aid the Penguins in transporting equipment (as is standard practice among teams) because of road conditions and that the Caps felt it was too far for them to travel??? Which meant that the Penguins had to stash things in a second bus just for the equipment?

    I Agree that the 5 hour travel at night in such conditions was very very dangerous.

  2. I was actually in DC for that Pens game and I was praying for them to play. I drove down to DC on Friday (and even watched the Thrashers-Caps game…girlfriend is big Caps fan) and was really concerned about the Sunday game. Little did I know how bad the conditions truely were until I tried driving back to Harrisburg after Sunday’s game. WORSE DRIVE ever…I can’t believe they got there…thank goodness no one was hurt and they shouldn’t had played looking back it at….but BOY was that a great game to watch in person!

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