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Another deadline-period update (key names: Kovalev, Stillman).


OK, so coverage of Monday’s trade was pretty extensive, but in case you missed any of it here are the links:

= Trade story, with comments from GM Ray Shero, coach Dan Bylsma, Ds Alex Goligoski and Matt Niskanen:

= My big-picture analysis on what this deal means:

= Goligoski speaking on his way out:

By the way, both Niskanen and LW James Neal will be at practice today.

Now, as that analysis piece points out, there is a strong belief around the NHL that Shero isn’t done dealing. What I’m hearing on that:

= There is interest within the organization, though hardly a consensus among the hockey folks, about Senators RW Alex Kovalev. From what I’ve heard from several sources independent of the Penguins; there are not many other team interested in acquiring Kovalev, and that the Senators are likely to hold him until close to the deadline in hopes of attracting some other bidders to drive up the price. Discussions with the Penguins are believed to have involved a low-round or conditional draft pick.

I don’t see the fit with Kovalev and Bylsma’s system, but I welcome readers to chip in with comments as to why he might be a good fit for this Penguins team.

= Trying to track the Penguins’ available room under the salary cap is tough because assistant GM Jason Botterill has done such a masterful job of moving players up and down and all around this season to preserve every dime. Nearest as I can tell they would have sufficient room to add Kovalev, who is on an expiring contract at a $5 million hit.

(By the way, the next team looking for a GM should seriously consider Botterill despite his limited experience. He has been the assistant to Shero for only two seasons. However, as a couple of hockey folks around within the league have told me, nobody understands the salary cap better than Botterill. His grasp of the cap – not just their own, but the cap situation for other teams – might be as important to the Penguins as any of their on-ice assets.)

= Here is another option for the Penguins, at least a name I’ve heard has come up in discussions: Panthers LW Corey Stillman, also on an expiring deal at $3.533 million. He has scored seven goals, half the total of Kovalev.

= I fully expect the Penguins to wait until later this week, and probably until Sunday or Monday, before making their next move. When Shero uses a phrase such as “let the dust settle,” as he did Monday while discussing the trades, that has in the past meant he either isn’t close on something or wants to explore more options.



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.


  1. David says:

    I think Kovalev will end up in Pittsburgh. With the departure of Goligoski, the Pens only have Letang as a legitimate threat on the point on the power play. Who else is going to fit that role? Martin? He never shoots. Niskanen? Zero goals. Orpik or Michalek? Defense is their forte. Engelland or Lovejoy? Lovejoy maybe, but he scratched more often than not. Engelland is not an offensive defensemen. So what other options are there? A forward? Dupuis, maybe. That’s why I think Kovalev will be in a Pens uniform in the not-to-distant future.

  2. Adam says:

    I definitely think a case can be made that Kovalev would be a shaky fit in Bylsma’s system, but I think he’s worth a shot given the sounds of what the Pens would have to give up to acquire him. Plus, I’d have to imagine Kovalev hasn’t lost his cannon of a shot and if that’s the case, there can always be a spot for him on the power play. My only question is if we do bring in a guy like Kovalev, what happens to guys who are scheduled to return like Chris Kunitz, Arron Asham, Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffrey, and even Mike Comrie? Also, what do you do with the guys from WB/S like Brett Sterling and Chris Conner who have been productive? And if you get Kovy, is that further indication that Sid is expected to be back, or an indication that he isn’t coming back and Shero is looking for whatever fire power he can acquire? I could see these lines come playoff time…

    James Neal – Sidney Crosby – Alex Kovalev
    Chris Kunitz – Jordan Staal – Tyler Kennedy
    Matt Cooke – Max Talbot – Pascal Dupuis
    Mike Rupp – Craig Adams – Arron Asham

    … but, again, that begs the question of what happens to Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffrey, and Mike Comrie? Maybe they are banking on Sid not coming back, and having Letestu, Jeffrey, and Comrie try and fill the void down the middle? Should be interesting to be sure.

  3. Ted Dattisman says:

    Afternoon. I am a DIE HARD Penguins Fan for LIFE. I like Alexi Kovalev and he is a great hockey player and played good for us in the past but my only concern is his age. We already got a new LW in James Neal from Dallas Stars which was a surprised great pickup even though We lost D Alex Goliginski. My next question is if We get Kovalev will he switch from a LW to RW? Fit into Dan Blymsa’s System?? Corey Stillman is not a bad but good average player. He is cheaper and younger than Kovalev.

  4. Joe says:

    Kovalev would be a limited use rent-a-player, which would be an abnormal move for Shero. That said, can you imagine what he’d be able to do on Crosby’s wing? Especially with Neal clogging up the other side and getting to the net? If there was an assurance that Crosby was coming back and we could get Kovy for a late round pick and nothing else (basically free), then I say you go for it.

    Adam, Comrie’s brief tenure as a Penguin is more than likely over. He won’t be back this year as he’s just gotten off his crutches and I can’t see them trying the same experiment next year. Though if we have a spare 500k sitting around, the same risk/reward equation probably would hold true.

    As for the other minor leaguers, they’ll be up and back throughout the rest of the season and playoffs, have no fear of that.

  5. espo33 says:

    Adam-if they get Kovie, get everyone healthy and don’t have to give anyone up from their NHL roster I see the following happening:

    Conner will be sent down if they need roster room. He hasn’t been used at all and has done nothing offensively. I am not sure what happened to him.

    Sterling has been good as well, but he will be sent down if they need the room. He might be sent down after Conner.

    Asham good track record, just not doing anything. Think he will sit

    Comrie won’t get the chance to play again.

    Depending on health they have Jeffrey or Letestu as 3rd line center with Talbot on 4th line. I make a case for Jeffrey as he has done a lot of little things right and can create well. I can also make the case for Letestu as he is a right handed centermen who is really good on the draw. I could see both of them playing on the 3rd line and Kennedy sitting.

  6. Drew says:

    I for one would welcome Kovalev back to the Burgh. He may not be the best fit in Bylsma’s system as far as backchecking and agressive forechecking, but we have tons of those guys and what we are currently missing is guys who when they get that open look, they don’t miss, and that is what I think Kovalev would bring. Not too mention the PP opportunities and help he could bring there. I feel he is worth the risk, which judging from the sounds of things would be much, 4th or 5th rd pick.

    Letestu will be back and will be the 3rd line center. Jeffrey will probably be sent back down this year. Comrie won’t be back unless we make it deep in playoffs. Asham is still up in the air as well with his concussion. So with Adam’s lineup above I would put Talbot in Asham’s spot and put Letestu where Talbot was.

  7. matthew says:

    Do you think Stillman could come in and make an impact?

  8. Jon says:

    I honestly think the pens should pass up on Kovalev and Stillman. The rumor going around is that George McPhee is shopping Alexander Semin around. I think in the long run, Semin would fit well. He would fit for the 2nd line of the powerplay and he would give Bylsma an extra center to throw around. And McPhee isnt looking for much in return.

  9. OneTimer says:

    Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
    Neal – Letestu – Jeffrey
    Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
    Rupp – Adams -Talbot
    extra..Conner,Asham (who has been out more than in this season)

    If Sid doesn’t return,
    Kunitz – Jeffrey – Dupuis
    Neal – Letestu – Conner
    Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
    Rupp – Adams -Talbot

    with the buzz line getting some time to mix things up.

    Staal is an exceptional checking line 3rd liner …good as a second liner an underachiever as a first line center (doesn’t have the scoring/finish to be first liner)

    I like Letestu’s face off ability..which is second best on the team (behind Sid) and this puts him in the second line role.

    What the team doesn’t have on this list of forwards is a game breaker..a true difference maker. Someone who will carry the stress, eat up the hard minutes of playing against the other teams top defensive pairings and stalemate them. That is something Sid excels at. Even when he isn’t scoring, he eats big minutes and tires the other teams skill players, Maybe Kovalev offers that…maybe. But his scoring touch is hard to find this year, and his defensive lapses tend to be worse than Malkins.

  10. Pauly Slapshot says:

    I definately agree with OneTimer on the lines, though I’d switch Kunitz and Neal around sans Crosby. If Crosby comes back, I’d like to think Neal would play on the left (if you’d ever seen him play, you’d know why). Neal is young, but, he’s proven himself over the past couple years to be that game breaker.

    But as to the question of Kovey, I say for a case of Gatorade and Bob Errey (yes, I know he’s an announcer, certainly hates Pittsburgh if you’d ever listen to him) who talks about every other team anyway, pick him up. I don’t know who The Sens have as a play by play, but, he’s gotta be better than Errey. $5M does however put a strain on the cap.

  11. harp says:

    Kovalev at his age would not be able to keep up with Crosby. He still has skill but they are eroded to what they once were and they were flashy and then dormant.

    His 5M should be pro-rated though at the end of his contract so money wise I am going to guess around 1.5M he has left on his contract.

    Kovalev does have 27 points so far on a team that can barely score and he’s listed as a RW, He could flank Crosby with Neal who is LW.

    Goal crasher- playmaker-sniper would cover all bases.

  12. Sharky says:

    There is no way the Crapitals would ever trade Semin to the Pens. They already are extremely jealous of the Pens success and would not want to help the Pens get better in any way.
    And really, who would you trade for him?

  13. Jason says:

    Staal’s problem is that he can’t create on his own. He has all the physical tools in the world, but lacks the vision on offense. I can see him and Neal wearing teams down with their size and physical play, but cycling the puck in the corner doesn’t put the puck in the back of the net. Neal will be with Staal in the short term, but it would be hard to argue against him being with Crosby or Malkin (Neal=Malone) when the team is healthy.

    Whomever suggested Semin would come to the Pens is crazy. 1) They are looking for a physical D man and a second line center. 2) remember Semin’s “what’s so special about Crosby” comment 3) disappears in the playoffs and for long stretches of the season.

  14. Ron says:

    Outside of the PP, Kovy would be a poor fit in our dump and chase/corner work system. He likes to camp out in the high slot and, unlike Guerin, you won’t see him creating opportunities as much as wanting them.

    I just don’t see Crosby returning so another scorer is needed. Maybe that is what Shero is thinking.
    So we know the the first line is:
    Neal-Staal-Kennedy (best player on the team right now)
    The second line will change when Kunitz returns and likely be:
    Kunitz-???-Dupuis. The ??? is meant for Letestu but he needs some health.
    3rd line? I think Talbot is about done in the Burgh. So here is where Stillman comes in:

    Our once deep line of centers is gone. Amazing how fast it happened once Sid was done. Malkin…well, you play with 50% effort, you get injured. He needs shipped out next year.

  15. JP says:


    First of all, how exactly can the Penguins afford to pay Alex Semin?

    Second of all, why exactly would they want to? He’s a playoff no-show and doesn’t perform in big games.

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