Alexei Kovalev Trade Was a Bad Move for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Alison Myers@AlisonM_110Correspondent IFebruary 25, 2011

With one look at the headline, I’m sure most of you have already planned to dislike this article.

Penguins fans just don’t badmouth Ray Shero. He is a deity among Pittsburgh devotees. Everything he touches turns to gold. He can do no wrong.

But when the news broke that Shero acquired Alexei Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick, I wasn’t jumping up and down in excitement like most other Penguins fans.

I was left cold.

“Great, just what we need.” I thought. “A slow, washed up forward, and one that has rumored attitude problems to boot.”

It’s not what we gave up that I have a problem with. I’m not going to lie; losing only a seventh round pick for Kovalev is a good deal. Plus, he’s an unrestricted free agent after this season, so it’s not like the Pens have a big contract to pay for.

It’s just that I don’t think Kovalev is what we needed, and it’s a bad move for the Penguins.

Kovalev first played in Pittsburgh from 1998-2003 and had 149 career goals and 317 points. He posted 44 goals and 95 points back in the 2000-01 campaign, the best year of his career.

When he was traded in 2003, he had 64 points and a minus-11 in 54 games. He finished the season with the New York Rangers and ended the campaign with 77 points, adding 13 points after being sent to the Blueshirts

However, ever since 2007-08, when Kovalev posted 84 points with the Montreal Canadiens, he has been going downhill.

Last year, he posted just 49 points in 77 games with Ottawa. Prior to being traded, he had 27 points in 54 games.

Kovalev is a poor defensive player. The majority of Penguins forwards are more defensively responsible than he is.

For example, Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis, who are behind Kovalev on the Pens’ scoring list, have plus/minus ratings of plus-11 and plus-10 respectively. Kovalev has a minus-nine.

He also has just five blocked shots this season and averages 10 seconds of ice time on the penalty kill.

Fortunately, the Penguins have the top ranked penalty kill in the league and won’t really need to use him.

Let’s not forget about Kovalev’s age. He is 38 years old. Whether we want to face it or not, the majority of NHL players don’t have much left in the tank at that age.

Prior to Kovalev’s arrival, the oldest players on the team were Brent Johnson and Craig Adams, who are each 33 years old.

I think it would have been better for Shero to have continued to add younger players rather than someone who is past his prime.

The other issue I have with Kovalev is his past attitude problems. While playing in Montreal, he was known to argue with his coach’s decisions and get into confrontations with referees.

Yes, the past is the past, and Mario Lemieux stuck up for Kovalev’s attitude. However, how can we say for sure that Kovy won’t revert to his old self? How can anyone say with certainty that he wouldn’t publicly question Dan Bylsma’s decisions or have yet another disagreement with officials?

You can’t.

Kovalev has also been known to play lazy and not give it his all during an 82-game season. Why would the Pens take a chance on that? With the position they are in, with injuries to many of their key players, they do not need players who aren’t always fully committed to the team.

Again, you just can't say for sure that Kovalev won't be like that in Pittsburgh. He may say he is excited to be back and wants to play for a contender, but we can't read his mind. How do we know that's not just a canned, media friendly speech? He needs to prove that on the ice, too.

Finally, Shero commented today during his press conference that the fact that Lemieux was willing to spend the money on Kovalev was “a commitment to the fans."

Since when do the fans matter when acquiring players? Bringing them into this was a mistake on Lemieux’s part.

It shouldn’t matter what players the fans want on the team, and it seemed like the management wanted to do the fans a favor by bringing them Kovalev.

I was much more in favor of the acquisition of Neal as the team’s new scoring winger. He played physical in Wednesday night’s game and was creating scoring chances. Plus, he’s only 23 years old and likely has a long career ahead of him. Getting Kovalev after picking up Neal earlier this week seems redundant.

If Shero was that set on acquiring an almost over the hill winger whose time is running out, he should've just re-signed Bill Guerin. Guerin had 45 points last season and also had solid leadership skills. Are we going to get that with Kovalev?

My guess is no.

So go ahead, everyone. Be nostalgic for the days of Alexei Kovalev when he was actually worth something and played decent. Keep singing the praises of Ray Shero. I won’t stop you.

Just don’t expect me to join the celebration.


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