Like many other people, Penguins general manager Ray Shero will be watching to see how the Ilya Kovalchuk saga unfolds. Shero, though, has a professional interest.
The NHL rejected a 17-year, $102 million contract that Kovalchuk and New Jersey devised that is heavily front-loaded, with the 27-year-old star earning the league-minimum $550,000 in each of the final five years. The league ruled that violated the collective bargaining agreement because it was a means of lowering the Devils' cap hit in the earlier years of the contract.
The NHL Players Association has filed a grievance.
"New Jersey signed a contract they felt was within their rights under the CBA. That's really the end of the story from Jersey's end," Shero said Tuesday. "I think everybody will watch the arbitration and see what the ruling will be. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Shero thinks the issue might be addressed in the next CBA. This one expires in September 2011, although the union has the right to extend it one year.
Shero does not sound like a GM who would pursue the overly long contract terms some other teams have used to lock up key players. During his tenure, he has signed star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to five-year deals, each averaging $8.7 million per season.
"I don't think we've been a real fan of it, 10-, 12-, 17-year deals," Shero said. "From a player standpoint, when we got into Crosby's deal, five years seemed to be about it.
"Too many things can go wrong -- the player's unhappy, the player doesn't perform, the team doesn't perform like you think, there's a change in ownership. A lot of things can happen on both ends that, after you get married that day, can change over the course of 10, 15 years."
More than five months before the Winter Classic between the Penguins and Washington, Penguins forward Max Talbot provided some bulletin-board material during a morning interview with WXDX, the team's flagship radio station.
He said he hated Capitals star Alex Ovechkin and called him a feminine product.
Ovechkin was not one of the five players from the clubs who attended the Winter Classic news conference Tuesday at Heinz Field.
"I'm kind of happy he's not going to be there," Talbot told the station. "I really didn't want to see him. I just hate the guy. ... Sorry."
Talbot said teammate Evgeni Malkin introduced him to Ovechkin at the 2009 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and that he wanted to give Ovechkin the benefit of the doubt about his personality.
"Let's say he didn't give the best impression to me," Talbot told the station. "Better reason to hate him even more. I'm not really going to say what happened, but it was like, 'OK, this guy is a real [feminine product].'"
After the news conference, Talbot said he was referring to the fierce rivalry that has developed between the Penguins and Capitals.
"I was talking about him on the ice, about playing against him," Talbot said, adding that, being a French-Canadian whose second language is English, he was not sure of the implications of the word he used to describe Ovechkin.
Following the news conference, five players -- Talbot, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis from the Penguins and Washington's Mike Knuble and David Steckel -- staged a football-hockey crossover exhibition. They attempted "field goals" by shooting pucks from a launch ramp.
They started at a distance of around 45 yards, moved back to 60 and finally to about 70. Steckel seemed to have the best knack for it. Crosby, although he shared the NHL lead with 51 goals last season, was 1 for 7 aiming for the uprights.
The Penguins reported that, after the Winter Classic news conference, Crosby and Hall of Fame center-turned-owner Mario Lemieux took the first skate on the newly installed ice at Consol Energy Center.
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