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Crosby working out, Malkin motivated, and thoughts the big news this week.


Greetings, dear readers! Due apologies for not blogging in a while. There have been some technical issues with the old laptop. As the old saying goes, “The newer the version of Internet Explorer, the more problems that are presented to me.” Actually, I just made up that saying. Anyway, I couldn’t get onto the blog site because of the latest IE upgrade. So, the kindly folks at the Trib IT department have downgraded my IT, and now the blog is back. If only I had something to report.

= Oh, wait, there is some news on C Sidney Crosby. According to GM Ray Shero, he has started the off-ice offseason workouts he was cleared for last week. Camp Crosby is guardedly optimistic that the worst of times is behind him on this concussion front. We’re about a month away — maybe six weeks, actually — from the next big step. If Crosby, as is his custom, is going hard for on-ice workouts in mid to late July, that is going to be the best sign yet that he’s gearing for a normal training camp.

 = Speaking of Shero, he said he has no intention of waiting until C Dustin Jeffrey is healthy before signing him to a new contract. Jeffrey is recovering from surgery to repair a torn right knee ligament, but the plan is to get him a new contract this month. Jeffrey, like RW Tyler Kennedy, is a restricted free agent.

= I’m taking some step backs from comments I made about Kennedy recently, when I said on a few radio shows he would be traded by or at the NHL entry draft. I still think that’s highly possible, but I know that coach Dan Bylsma believes Kennedy’s production last season — career highs with 21 goals and 45 points — was not a fluke. Don’t rule out the Penguins finding a suitable replacement for Kennedy, whom they believe is going to be at least a $2 million player next season given the comparables, then qualifying Kennedy and going to arbitration to see what he actually gets in that forum. If it’s too high a price, they would walk away. However, if Kennedy goes to arbitration and is at or around $2 million on a cap hit, I get the sense the Penguins would lean toward keeping him for another season even if they find a suitable replacement. As Shero said, “I’m not looking to get rid of him.”

The question for Bylsma and the coaching staff — and, really, Shero and the management team — is whether Kennedy is a legit top-line power-play guy. If he is, he is worth more than $2 million. I don’t get the feeling the Penguins have figured out yet if Kennedy would be on their top PP if the season started today.

= About the power play: Don’t be surprised if neither Crosby nor C Evgeni Malkin are on the half wall next season. Each player has worked that spot before, but I’m hearing that coaching staff has other ideas for both guys regarding the man-advantage attack. I’m intrigued, are you?

= Not saying the Penguins are down on D Matt Niskanen, but I doubt it would take a lot for another team to snag him this offseason. 

= Malkin, by the way, is really motivated right now. Word was passed to me by several of his friends that he is looking at this upcoming season as a defining one to date for his NHL career. He wants to be “back in the conversation” about the world’s best player, I’m told. His rehab, according to Shero, has gone very well — and nobody within the organization anticipates the surgically repaired right knee being a problem when camp opens in September.

And when camp opens in September, don’t be surprised to see this line: James Neal-Jordan Staal-Malkin.

= UFA updates: Not a lot to report. As expected, the Penguins and C Craig Adams reached terms this week. Word is that C Max Talbot and RW Pascal Dupuis are asking for term the Penguins don’t want to match — four years for Talbot, three for Dupuis. As for C Mike Rupp, there is a growing sense that he believes the open market will be very kind to him financially. Shero is adamant about keeping all three players, but he is in no position to overspend by even $100,000 on any of these guys. Even if the cap goes to $62 or $63 million, the Penguins will be up against it.

Finally, a personal note:

I’ve been lucky enough to have two great veteran mentors in my career: Bob Hertzel and Alan Robinson, both well-versed reporters who could and can churn out copy with the best of ‘em, not to mention sniff out a story fast.

Dejan Kovacevic was never a mentor, so much as the guy I wanted to be as I grew up in this business. His passion, approach and skill are things I’ve admired and envied — even as he kicked me around for a year while we were competitors on the Pirates beat. Especially then, actually.

We met more than a decade ago, at a place across the river. I learned a lot then by watching Dejan work the Penguins beat. From him I learned that beat boys must take ownership of the product — not simply report and write, but set a tone and work all ends, from how the story looked on a page to what kind of tool the Internet could be for taking a pulse of the audience to making it all make sense by making sense of it all first.

As most of the readers know, I’m a Bruce Springsteen nut. Since Tuesday night, when I sat in Dejan’s living room as we took in the moment that was him joining the Trib as a sports columnist, I’ve been looking for the best Boss line to make sense of what Dejan joining this team means to me.

I’ve finally found the passage:

We’ll move with the city in the dark/You got to walk it, talk it, in your heart/There’s nothin’ to lose it’s a heartache/The deck’s stacked/So put your foot to the floor, darling/Tonight we’ll blow off the doors, baby/We’re gonna even the score/And honey we won’t look back…

A sincerely gratifying welcome, my friend. This is going to be fun.




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. Erik Bruckner says:

    What UFA would be a suitable replacement for Tyler Kennedy? Possibly Scottie Upshall?

  2. Mike D says:

    I can’t wait for next season. Reading this gets me excited and living in Vancouver around the cup hype, I can’t help but think that Boston would have been Pittsburgh in the finals if Gino and Sid were healthy. Heck, they took Tampa to the limit without them.

  3. diane says:

    Evgeni Malkin is a center, not a winger.

  4. espo33 says:

    Let’s see the Neal working with Staal was crappy this past spring, I don’t think it will change this Fall… If you want to have Staal as 2nd line center then have the lines like this:

    Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy (or a new UFA or possibly Tang’s, Nick Johnson)
    Cooke-Letestu-Dupius (if he signs for only 2 years at $1M, if not Tangs)
    Rupp-Adams-Wallace (if resigned, if not then Sill/Vitale from WB)

    I am not sure if Jeffrey will be healthy enough to start the season. If he is, then he would be a better option on 2nd line.

    The biggest thing for this team is to be just healthy. They don’t need to add too much, just need to get them playing together and get chemistry between the players. Save the cap space for the season for any trades that might come up.

  5. AgingGoalie says:

    Why – someone explain to me WHY – the Pens are so insistent about moving an elite (when healthy) offensive center to the wing, so that he can play with a defensive center who has conclusively shown that he is not capable of consitently generating any offense whatsoever? I love Staal…his determination…his work ethic…his willingness to be a team guy…the intelligence with which he plays…but he is not a first or second line center. Period. For crying out loud, the only time he put up better than OK offensive numbers was his rookie season, during which he spent long periods of time at left wing. Please…I’m begging you…stop trying to convert Staal into a top 2 center, especially when it means moving a legitimate top 2 center away from his natural position to make room for him.

  6. tomas says:

    That’s because AgingGoalie the Pens must make room for Bylsma’s pet project Mark Letestu to center one of the four lines. As far as Niskanen goes, at least they seem to realize that he was dumped on them with his $1.5 million dollar cap hit by the Stars and that he won’t even be able to beat out Simon Despres for a job on the blueline in training camp. They need to give Talbot the four years, he’s good for Crosby, he’s good for the room, good for the playoffs and is only 27 not 37.

  7. Michelle says:

    C’mon give Max 4 years. Dupuis and Rupp (love them both) but numbers don’t lie. Max was great on pk…the other two didn’t score much the second half of the year. Can’t we make a deal for Max!!

  8. john says:

    1. “And when camp opens in September, don’t be surprised to see this line: James Neal-Jordan Staal-Malkin.”

    . . . If Rossi is right about Malkin’s mindset, then I suspect that having Jordan Staal as his center will do more to slow down Geno than the opposition.

    2. “About the power play: Don’t be surprised if neither Crosby nor C Evgeni Malkin are on the half wall next season.”

    . . . Malkin right point? He stinks on the left point, but he was pretty good there when Gonchar/Whitney were out three years ago and is the only player on the roster who is a threat with a one-timer from the right point.

    . . . Sid working behind/around net?

    . . . One of or both Sid and Malkin playing more like rovers in the offensive zone (trying to emulate how they work the offensive zone at 4 on 4) and instructing the other players to rotate/fill space based on what Sid and/or Malkin do?

    . . . Only use 4 players in the offensive zone on the PP since the Pens actually skate, move, work harder, and create more consistent pressure at 4 on 4 than they do at 5 on 4?

  9. john says:

    Agreed on that second line, espo . . . Neal and Staal didn’t click. And, while Staal and Malkin have shown chemistry in the past, the offensive chemistry has come more with Malkin centering Staal than with Staal centering Malkin. If Neal with Staal showed anything, it’s that Staal is not the type of center you want to rely on getting the puck to a skilled winger in transition.

    Heaven forbid an organization that has given Malkin wingers of such caliber that you can say Max Talbot was his most consistent winger in the last three years would actually say, let’s see what my motivated and re-energized elite center can do now that we give him a winger the caliber of Neal. No, it makes more sense to handicap him (a) by moving him to wing and (b) by putting him out there with center whose offensive game is limited in ways that Staal’s game is limited.

    I mean, I fully expect the Pens to have Staal center Malkin . . . I’m just surprised that Rossi didn’t include the disclaimer he’s been using about the wisdom of the idea.

  10. upnorth says:

    i think they should sign tk to a 3yr $2m/season,it will be a steal ,next yr and the 2 yrs after that,some people dont excel “when given the opportunity” KENNEDY did!The kid is only going to get better and better,if pitt trades him ,someone will get a steal for 2mil,beleive me,this team has to go with present results ,not what you could,mite,have ,should do ,but are you doing.And kennedy is getting better and better ,when given the opportunity.Sure he will screw up time to time ,but i see guys making 5,6 7 and 8 mil a year screwing up also,Pitts powerplay was not much better last year with crosby and malkin in lineup,i think he has proven himself,now its time to pay and retain,if it dont work out,you can always trade him,later on,but i cannot see that happening.


    At what point can we stop trying to make Jordan Staal a scoring line centre? He’s just not wired for production…

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