Pittsburgh Penguins: Will a Return to Pittsburgh Reignite Winger Alexei Kovalev?

Mad ChadAnalyst IFebruary 25, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 1:  Alexei Kovalev #27 of the Pittsburgh Penguins competes in the pass & score event during the NHL SuperSkills Competition on February 1, 2003 at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI)
Elsa/Getty Images

Ray Shero must not have been satisfied with just getting James Neal and Matt Niskanen, as he traded a seventh-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for former Pens winger Alexei Kovalev.

Kovalev, now 38 years old, is returning to the Penguins after having some successful and unsuccessful stints in New York (Rangers), Montreal and most recently, Ottawa. 

With all of the injuries that the Penguins have experienced this year to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu and Aaron Asham, GM Ray Shero and the Pens were almost forced to trade for some more help offensively. The Pens scored big with power forward James Neal and have now added Kovalev to give them a lift offensively

Kovalev—who waived a no-trade clause to make the deal happen—was had for a conditional sixth or seventh-round draft pick, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. The bad thing is Kovalev brings with him a cap hit of $5 million.

Kovalev has always been one of the most talented wingers in the league, loaded with quick hands and one of the deadliest wrist shots I've ever seen. But recently, his numbers have gone down and his age has gone up. 

This year, he has just 14 goals and 13 assists in 54 games with the Senators. 

That being said, I think him coming back to the Penguins and playing for a team that has much more talent to offer than the Senators—and are also in the playoffs—could re-energize and rejuvenate his career, at least for the rest of this season. 

Kovalev was a Penguin from 1998 to 2003 and enjoyed lots of success as he put up 347 points in 345 regular season games to go along with 28 points in 39 postseason appearances. In 2000-01, he put up a career-high 95 points (44 goals/51 assists) and helped the Pens advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Although Kovalev can be inconsistent at times and is at the end of his career, the Pens basically have nothing to lose. Without Crosby and Malkin, he can be extremely helpful on the struggling power play, and if he isn't, the Pens just lose a seventh-round pick—which they had two of. 

I also think this trade's success depends on Crosby's future with the team. If Crosby comes back, then the Pens will be serious contenders to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

Their lines could look like this:





Those lines are certainly good enough to beat anybody in the league. 

This article also appears on the Pittsburgh blog www.412sportstalk.net. You can follow me on Twitter at  www.twitter.com/madchad1187.