The Alex Kovalev experiment in Ottawa has ended – Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray announced today that the “Russian Riddle” was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional seventh round draft pick. The move is another cost-cutting measure by the Sens organization, but perhaps more importantly, it frees up a valuable roster spot for one of their prospects from Binghamton. Through trades and injuries, it is officially audition time in Ottawa as the Senators evaluate players for next season.
Many were surprised when Murray signed Kovalev two summers ago to a two-year, $10 million contract; few are surprised to see him leave. At times, he looked magnificent on the ice, setting up plays and scoring goals. Unfortunately, those times were few and far between. In his 131 games as a Senator, Kovalev scored 32 goals and added 44 assists. After several public feuds with head coach Cory Clouston over his inconsistent play and ice time, it was apparent that Kovalev was not part of the long-term plans in Ottawa.
A seventh round pick was about all that could be expected for Kovalev, especially on his current contract. According to various reports, very few teams expressed interest in the winger, and if not for the recent string of injuries in Pittsburgh, one cannot help but wonder if the Penguins traded for his services out of desperation, not desire. If he is inspired to perform in Pittsburgh under head coach Dan Bylsma, they have added a potential weapon for the playoffs. If not, it was a risk worth taking – Kovalev is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
This is Kovalev’s second stint with the Penguins, having played there for all or part of five seasons (1999-00 until 2002-03). In 345 career games in a Pittsburgh uniform, he has 149 goals and 198 assists. His best season statistically in the NHL was during the 2000-2001 season, when he set career highs for goals scored (44) and points (95).
Marek Svatos Claimed on Waivers
The Kovalev trade was not the only move made by Murray today – forward Marek Svatos was claimed on the waiver wire from the Nashville Predators. The former Colorado Avalanche draft pick (227th overall in 2001) has played in 325 NHL games with Colorado (316 games) and Nashville (9 games), scoring 97 goals and accumulating 167 points. Signed by St. Louis earlier in the season after playing 19 games in the KHL, he was claimed on waivers by the Predators on December 29th. The Senators staff is familiar with Svatos, he played for head coach Cory Clouston for two years in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice.
“He’s a goal scorer – he’s always been that,” Clouston said today. “Real good around the net, not a big guy but he’s very quick and has great hands. He has had a couple of real good years in the NHL.”
“He can score, he has been a scorer at this level and he’ll get an opportunity.”
Ian Mendes of Rogers Sportsnet reported on Twitter today that Svatos is expected to make his debut on Friday evening against the Buffalo Sabres on a line with Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon.
Sens Getting a Good Look at Anderson
When the Ottawa Senators sent Brian Elliott to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Avs goaltender Craig Anderson, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray wanted to make the move in order to have a closer look at Anderson before he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Senators organization has to be very pleased with their decision; Anderson has exceeded their expectations in his two starts.
In his first game with Ottawa, a Saturday night match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anderson stopped 49 shots in total and picked up a shutout in the 1-0 shootout victory. It marked the first time all season that the Senators won a game in overtime. On Wednesday evening, he made his first start at Scotiabank Place, and while he was not tested as often, he helped the team end a 10-game losing streak on home ice in a 5-1 victory over one of his former teams, the Florida Panthers.
Contract talks have not started, but Anderson is enjoying Ottawa and Senators fans are enjoying having that winning feeling once again. If his play remains consistent, fans can expect talks to begin on a contract extension.