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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Neal’s payday, Shero’s heydey


BUFFALO, N.Y. — Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column from Sabres-land looks at the Penguins and the upcoming deadline.

>> Had a good talk with Ray Shero before faceoff on a variety of topics, including the James Neal trade — the anniversary is tomorrow — that led to the six-year, $30 million contract he signed yesterday.

No matter what point I would raise about the trade working in the Penguins’ favor, Shero would counter with how it’s also worked for Dallas. If I mentioned Neal turning into a player worth signing for this long, he’d talk about Alex Goligoski just getting a four-year deal in Dallas. If I mentioned getting Matt Niskanen as a throw-in, he’d talk some more about the Stars.

Call it false modesty if you will, but it didn’t come across that way.

“You know, I said at the time to Joe Nieuwendyk, right before we got off the phone, that this was a hockey trade,” Shero said, referring to his Dallas counterpart. “That’s how it’s worked out. Alex has been a great fit for the Stars, exactly what they needed. We gave our guy a contract, they gave one to their guy. It’s a deal that helps both teams. If we had more deals like that, hockey would be the better for it.”

So would the Penguins.

>> The deal itself is terrific for both sides. The Penguins lock up a player who spends so much time on the puck that you’re bound to get something from him even when he doesn’t score. There’s a lot of value in that.

Don’t engage too much in player-to-player comparisons here. Yes, at $5 million annually, Neal is being paid the same as Paul Martin. But Neal is 24, and Martin was 28 and an unrestricted free agent at the time of his signing with the Penguins. Different age brackets, different statuses.

>> On the first day of pitchers and catchers, the hot topic is the rotation, naturally.

Let me toss in here that the Trib’s coverage of the Pirates’ spring training will involve daily updates, features and notebooks from Rob Biertempfel, as well as daily videos and photo galleries from Chris Horner. At some point in mid-March, I’ll be joining that coverage, too, for a few days.

Best place to keep up is on Biertempfel’s Bucco Blog.

>> What a rotten ending to a rotten home season for Pitt. On Senior Night, Ashton Gibbs, the Big East’s preseason player of the year, nets two points. The five starters combined for 15!

With whom do you find most fault for this season?

>> This was my appearance last night on KDKA-TV’s ‘Showdown.’ I’ll beg in advance for your forgiveness for a somewhat haggard look. I’d just driven 3 1/2 hours from Buffalo and arrived exactly two minutes before the 8 p.m. taping. And I failed to bring my makeup artist along!

>> I’ll be on our online-only TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m.

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