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Penguins Penguins Notebook: Kovalev says no to 2nd proposal

His agent says he'll prepare counteroffer

Thursday, September 26, 2002

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Right winger Alexei Kovalev has rejected the Penguins' second proposal for a contract extension.

The next move will be his.

General Manager Craig Patrick received the latest rejection late Tuesday from Kovalev's agent, Scott Greenspun, then asked Greenspun to make a counterproposal. Greenspun said he would do so "soon" but declined to be more specific.

Patrick's first proposal, made last month, was believed to be for five years at $25 million to $30 million. His second, made last Thursday, could have added length to the term of the contract while keeping a similar salary level, perhaps covering six years at $38 million.

Kovalev, 29, has one year left on his contract at $4.55 million, after which he can become a restricted free agent. He can test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2004. He and the Penguins have agreed that talks toward an extension would be halted Oct. 9, the day before the start of the team's regular season.

Greenspun has made it clear he believes Kovalev ranks among the NHL's elite, placing his bar in the range of the five-year, $45 million deals signed this summer by the New York Rangers' Bobby Holik, the Dallas Stars' Bill Guerin and the St. Louis Blues' Keith Tkachuk.

Making room for Daigle ?

The Penguins are working toward buying out the contract of one of their minor-league players, likely to make room to sign tryout center Alexandre Daigle.

An official of the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre said yesterday the organization has placed center Jan Fadrny on waivers. If he clears, which he almost surely will, the team will try to buy out the final year of his two-way contract, which pays $975,000 at the NHL level, a fraction of that for time spent in the minors.

The reason, the official said, is that the Penguins have 50 players signed to NHL contracts, the maximum allowed by league rules, and must clear space to sign anyone else. Daigle and another tryout, right winger Alexander Selivanov, are the only unsigned players in camp, and Daigle is having the better showing.

Pat Brisson, Daigle's agent, said yesterday he has not heard from Patrick during camp, but he added that talks on a guaranteed deal could start as early as next week.

"We're all very excited he's doing well, and I think Alex would be thrilled to stay in Pittsburgh a long time," Brisson said. "We'll see what happens."

Daigle, 27, has two goals and two assists in two preseason games, and he has impressed management and teammates with his work ethic after two years out of hockey.

"He's been great since he came to camp," center Mario Lemieux said yesterday. "He struggled the first couple of days, but that's to be expected after a couple of years away. He's got his wheels back, and he's playing well. ... He can still be a great player."

Netting ready to go

The Penguins will have the new, NHL-mandated protective netting for Mellon Arena's end zones ready for their preseason home opener Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That's a surprise to team officials, who had difficulty finding the right fit because of the building's unusual roof.

Mike Lee, vice president of business development and properties, said the netting will be made from black thread about 1.5 millimeters thick with less than 3 inches in its grid separation. It will be raised 21 feet above the glass and hung from a horizontal steel pole that mimics the shape of the end boards.

Lee is eager to see how the netting will be received.

"We are cautiously optimistic, although we expect comments to run the gamut," he said. "Whether they like it or hate it, though, we hope the fans can appreciate its purpose."

Lemieux likes Straka

Left winger Martin Straka skated without difficulty for a second consecutive day at Southpointe yesterday morning, and later he received a key slice of incentive to keep up his recovery from a back injury.

When Lemieux was asked what type of player he would like to have for his left winger -- Aleksey Morozov is a lock for the right side -- he singled out Straka as his top choice.

"Marty worked well there last year before we both got hurt," Lemieux said. "He's got so much speed that he creates a little gap between the defense and myself. That's always something nice to work with. The better the speed I have on each wing, the better my game's going to be."

Tip-ins

Herb Brooks, the Penguins' new director of player development, made a rare appearance on the ice at practice. "Always fun to go out there," Brooks said. ... All 41 players participated in the two workouts. ... Kovalev announced he will donate $500 for each goal he scores this season to the Woodlands Foundation, a facility which provides programs for the disabled and chronically ill. "I believe that one of the responsibilities of an athlete is to give back to his community," he said. ... Lemieux, on seeing recent draft picks fare well at camp: "It's important to have some kids step up. We haven't had too many over the past five or 10 years who could come in and do the job. If we can have that, I think the organization is going to be so much better off." ... The first practice today begins at 10 a.m.

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