NHL

KELLEY: Kovalev deal forced by finances

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
Two things stand out about about the deal that sent Pittsburgh forward to New York: First, give New York general manger Glen Sather some credit, he can still outflank the competition and make the big deal. Second, those rumors about the again being on the cusp of bankruptcy are very likely true. How else do you explain a transaction that allows one of the best players in the game today to escape from Pittsburgh for the hockey equivalent of a care package? Examine the deal: The send Kovalev, one of the brightest offensive talents in the game today, to the along with defensemen and Mike Wilson and winger Dan LaCoutre to the for wingers and and defensemen and Richard Linter. This is a salary dump of the highest order, and the fact that the tossed in $4 million in cash, the most NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly would allow, clinches it. The fact that it happened now, instead of closer to the trade deadline when other teams were expected to play a hand in the Kovalev derby, also adds to the overwhelming evidence of a salary dump and of Pittsburgh's dire financial straits. The fact that the four players the get in return don't add up to the on-ice impact of Kovalev alone adds to the theory, and the fact that earlier in the day the dumped defenseman on Calgary for a conditional draft pick pretty much clinches it. Teams simply don't make deals like this unless they have to make them. They especially don't make them with teams they are competiting with for the eighth and final playoff spot, especially when the other team is not only in the same conference, but the same division. Kovalev has scored 27 goals and 37 assists this season, playing mostly on a line with team owner/center . Putting him in New York makes the an odds-on favorite to make the playoffs. It almost certainly condemns the to another miss. Samuelsson, was just the seventh highest scorer on the this season, hardly a major threat to replace Kovalev. He has just 22 points in 59 games. Fatta has been in the minors for the bulk of his career and has played just 36 games for the this season, scoring all of six points. Bouchard also has split the season between the and its AHL affiliate in Hartford. Linter has spent the bulk of his career in the minors after being drafted by Phoenix and doing some time in Nashville's organization. The three players heading to New York with Kovalev — LaCouture, Laukkanen and Wilson — are not expected to make the New York roster and are merely throw-ins. Kovalev meanwhile leaves Pittsburgh with a better than point-per-game average. In 345 NHL games he's scored 347 points for the . A former draft pick of the and touted then as the greatest player to come into the NHL since Wayne Gretzky, Kovalev started slowly, but his promise was never in doubt. The obtained him for , and after the had soured on his slow development. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Rangers, Penguins, Panthers, Jets, Blue Jackets, Petr Nedved, Brad Ference, Rico Fata

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