Could the Penguins re-sign Kovalev?
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Q: I believe the lack of production on the power play is affecting us more than we might perceive. In my opinion, other teams are not afraid of our power play and thus are willing to take more liberties and chances 5-on-5 than they normally would. So not only is our power-play performance affecting the special-teams game, but also the 5-on-5 game.
Sam Fahnestock, San Antonio, Texas
MOLINARI: The Penguins entered their game in Calgary last night having had 196 power plays in their first 47 games, an average of 4.17 per game. While that total tied Dallas for the most tries with the man-advantage in the league, the average actually is down from the 4.39 they average last season (4.6 during Dan Bylsma's 25 games as coach).
The numbers aside, though, opponents have had absolutely no reason to exercise restraint when attempting to neutralize the Penguins' top offensive talents in even-strength situations, because taking a penalty to break up a scoring chance is a very low-risk move when you're dealing with a power play that's been scoring on 14.3 percent of its opportunities.
Enforcer Eric Godard, when he's in the lineup, can be a deterrent to opposing players taking liberties with the Penguins' top players, but a reasonably productive power play would do that a lot more effectively.
Q: Any chance of getting Alex Kovalev back if Ottawa tanks?
Todd, Raleigh, N.C.
MOLINARI: The Penguins didn't seem to show any interest in Kovalev when he was an unrestricted free agent last summer, and if they didn't pursue him when they could have had him for nothing more than a contract, it seem unlikely they'd do it when they'd have to give up one or more assets to acquire him in a trade.
Kovalev is making top-six forward money -- $5 million this season and $5 million more in 2010-11 -- but with 11 goals in 44 games, isn't producing like one. Given the Penguins' salary-cap situation, they can't afford to make that kind of financial commitment to a guy unless they're reasonably certain he'll provide the kind of goal-scoring they need.
Kovalev is one of the great pure talents in recent NHL history, did some of his finest work as a member of the Penguins and still is capable of an occasional burst of brilliance, but there's very little reason to believe he could give the Penguins the game-in, game-out productivity they'd like from the wingers on their top two lines.
First Published January 14, 2010 12:00 am