Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: I was wondering if you had heard anything about new features for NHL Center Ice this season. I heard that the NHL was trying to add the pre-game and post-game shows to the lineup.
Stephen S. Gray, Washington, D.C.
MOLINARI: The moderator of this forum possesses technical skills and understanding that would embarrass an underachieving four-year-old -- forget grasping how a machine works; he's thrilled just to be able to operate its on-off switch -- but when your question was passed along to an NHL executive, he offered these insights on league-related media plans for the 2008-09 season:
"For NHLCI-TV (carried on all major U.S. distributors) -- The plan is for the distributors to distribute as many games as possible in HD and as many dual feeds (home and away feed of same game) as possible. Bandwidth limitations and other programming commitments will limit a full rollout. We are always looking to add new content, such as pre- and post- game shows, to NHLCI-TV, but nothing is imminent at this time.
"For NHL.com, we are rolling out two products -- GameCenter and GameCenter Live. The latter is the new branded version of NHLCI on-line from last season. Some planned highlights are as follows:
GameCenter is a free product on NHL.com that includes the following:
• Live stats.
• Home and away radio broadcasts.
• Photos from each game.
• In-game highlights from select games.
• Action Tracker, which charts shots, goals, hits and penalties.
GameCenter Live includes everything above and also offers (subject to local blackout):
• Streaming video of live games.
• A four-screen mosaic of live games (so people can) watch four games at once.
• One game a night will have three auxiliary camera angles -- two goalie cams, an iso-cam and the regular broadcast feed will be available.
• A pop-out mini player.
Q: I know it's way too early to start looking at down-the-road scenarios. However, with the Thrashers in total disarray, what do you think the chances are of Ray Shero looking to deal for (Ilya) Kovalchuk somewhere (after midseason)? There seems to be no way that Atlanta will keep him past this year and man, would he look great on a wing with (Sidney Crosby) or (Evgeni Malkin). I know he isn't as good a two-way player as Marian Hossa, but offensively, he can be dynamic and perhaps playing meaningful hockey will light his fire. It worked once with Atlanta, why not again?
Billy Gazdik, Atlanta
MOLINARI: Considering that, less than 12 hours before the 2008 trade deadline, the Penguins didn't expect themselves to be a serious player in the Hossa sweepstakes, it would be foolish to flatly dismiss any possibility at this point.
Nonetheless, there are quite a few reasons why -- regardless of how many goals he might score with, say, Crosby feeding him pucks -- Kovalchuk isn't likely to end up with the Penguins.
There is, for starters, the matter of what the Penguins would have to give up to get a player of his caliber. If Atlanta decided to deal Kovalchuk, general manager Don Waddell surely would auction him off to the highest bidder among the other 29 teams, driving the price to a rarefied level. After sending Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first-round draft choice to the Thrashers for Hossa, the Penguins don't have many substantial assets they can relinquish without feeling a serious pinch.
What's more, the Penguins are flirting with the salary-cap ceiling, and Kovalchuk is scheduled to earn $7.5 million this season and next, and carries a cap hit of $6.4 million. That means the Penguins would have to trim at least one significant player, and probably more, from their NHL roster, just to clear the cap room for Kovalchuk. And with Jordan Staal in line for a major raise for the 2009-10 season, the financial repercussions of trading for him might still be felt a year from now.
Bottom line: While adding a goal-scorer with Kovalchuk's pedigree might be an intriguing idea, it doesn't appear to be a terribly practical one.
Q: What is the thought on John Curry, as far as being a top NHL prospect?
Chris Katica, Linden N.J.
MOLINARI: Curry enters training camp as the No. 3 goalie on the Penguins' depth chart, which says an awful lot about him, considering that he joined the organization as an undrafted free agent just over a month ago.
Barring injury to Marc-Andre Fleury or Dany Sabourin, Curry will spend this season with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, where he will partner with David Brown or, more likely, Adam Berkhoel, a veteran minor-leaguer signed as a free agent last month.
While it's hard to imagine him bumping Fleury out of the No. 1 spot in the NHL at any point, in either the near or long term, Curry is the current frontrunner to be Fleury's partner for 2009-10 if the Penguins opt against retaining Sabourin after the coming season.
Curry's game still requires considerable refinement, but he has impressed the Penguins' front office with his competitive nature, mental toughness and willingness to battle for every second of every game. Those qualities allowed him to beat out Brown to become the Baby Penguins' No. 1 goalie last season, and probably explain why his teammates consistently play hard and well in front of him. They also are the primary reason Curry is a pretty fair bet to be pulling down an NHL paycheck a year or so down the road.
First Published September 15, 2008 12:00 am