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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: June 13, 2013

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 1:12 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. Pierogies will be done in a few. For those of us who stayed up and watched all of the Blackhawks winning in triple-OT, there'll be serious caffeine, too. In the meantime ...

Comment From Andrew: With Malkin signing today for a reasonable price, what do you foresee the Pens doing with 58? He's obviously a great player, but if Shero got the return he did for Jordan Staal, you have to imagine Letang's return would be enormous

Dejan Kovacevic: The Evgeni Malkin contract was excellent for the Penguins, and no one should take for granted that he and Sidney Crosby both chose to stay in Pittsburgh at far less than what they could have gotten elsewhere by testing the open market. It's a remarkable thing, and there might not be anything comparable in the NHL or any other major league.

I believe, as I wrote Sunday morning on the blog , that Letang should and will be traded. He flat-out isn't worth the money he'll command, and he absolutely should net a quality trade return.

Comment From Paul: Hey Dejan, huge fan of your writing, have the link to your blog on the home screen of my phone, thanks for the awesome coverage...thoughts on the Malkin contract?

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Paul. To get specific, what Malkin's deal does is max out not only the term for which the Penguins can keep him (until age 34, no less) but also allows for other quality players to be added toward the common goal of winning another Stanley Cup. But for the athlete, too, it's got benefits (beyond the huge cash): He stays in a city where he's comfortable (loves Pittsburgh), on a team where his role isn't front and center (especially off the ice, where he can't stand being the main guy), with a linemate he loves who's also signed semi-long term (James Neal), and in accompaniment with another player (Crosby) who pretty much guarantees the team will always contend at some level or other.

Win, win, win.

Comment From Steve Blass: Surprised Gerritt Cole did not tip his cap? AJ needs to teach him ow they do it in The Show!

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, wow, no, that's absolutely unfair. Cole was coming off the mound to the ovation, but he explained afterward that he was looking toward the Pirates' veterans in the dugout to see if he should tip the cap or not. When he saw no such sign, he didn't want to do it.

I don't blame Cole in the slightest. Baseball culture can be pretty tough.

Comment From Newtang: Who made the pierogies?

Dejan Kovacevic: Mysterious lady who only goes by the name Mrs. T.

Comment From Donald, Kingsford, MI: Have you reviewed the Steelers schedule yet. I got this team at 8-8. Can't see that there is more talent here than last year. Anyway I can be optimistic here about a playoff run?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think the schedule will determine their fate as much as how — or if — they figure things out offensively. Ben Roethlisberger has lost two key targets (Heath Miller, Mike Wallace) going into the season, neither really replaced. You've got a huge question mark at running back. You've got unknowns at both tackles.

That said — cue tease music — my Friday column from minicamp will be about one area that no one should expect to get better but I think will.

Comment From tim: what is your feeling on fleury coming back? they can say all they want but no one can honestly be confident in him next year. will he be moved/amnestied?

Dejan Kovacevic: It might, indeed, have been a sales job, but I think Ray Shero sold me yesterday on the idea that Fleury really will be back. One point he made that's hard to debate: Winning regular-season goalies don't grow on trees.

Comment From Chris from DC: Do you think the comparison between Shero sticking with Blysma thru a few disappointing (albeit playoff) seasons is similar to the Rooney's sticking with Cowher thru those 6-10, 7-9, 8-8 (not sure exactly on the records) seasons that preceded the SB win? The fan bases for both were clamoring for change, but the status quo was kept. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've had a couple readers raise that, and I think it's fair except that the whole Cowher-can't-win-the-big-one criticism wasn't nearly as deeply founded as the Bylsma-can't-win-anything-that-Michel-Therrien-didn't-set-up-for-him mindset. By that span you cite, Cowher already had taken the Steelers to one Super Bowl and three AFC championship games. No matter how you cut that up, his Wannstedt-meter was still very high for winning without winning the big one.

Bylsma is different. Since the Cup, the Penguins actually have a losing record in playoffs unless I'm mistaken. Maybe one of you kind folks could calculate while I go to the next Q.

Comment From BenderHeel: Have any explanation for the bipolar Pirates offense? Can't score runs for games at a time, and then they look like the ‘27 Yankees.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've been writing consistently that the Pirates' offense isn't as bad as it's appeared for a while now. They're not going to put up double-digits very often, either. But Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez alone have just as much room — in my view — to go up as, say, the back-end bullpen guys have to go down.

The catch to the next month or so, I think, will be getting stability from the starters. Lost in the fun last night at PNC was that a whole lot of pitchers got clubbed, and they're guys you really don't want to see getting clubbed. Francisco Liriano in particular. We'll see what Charlie Morton does tonight, though it's fair to note he's (exactly) a year removed from his Tommy John. We'll see if A.J. Burnett can get over the intoxication with Ks. We'll see if Jeff Locke ever resumes pitching like the guy with the 3.61 career ERA in the minors, or if he stays Cy Young. We'll see if Wandy Rodriguez's elbow is OK. (And yes, anytime you hear anyone use the term “forearm,” they're talking about the elbow.) Never overthink it in baseball: It's always the starters.

Comment From AJB: Will Jarome Iginla play for the Pens next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I seriously doubt that. I believe he'll end up in Dallas, which apparently has money to burn given the $10 million they just insanely handed Sergei Gonchar over the next two years, and there are several old Calgary connections there for Iginla, as well.

To me, extending Bylsma essentially ended Iginla's brief stay in Pittsburgh. No sense keeping a player the coach neither wants nor knows how to use.

Comment From Matt from New Castle: Aside from winning in the playoffs and not stuttering against some of the worst teams in the postseason tournament, will there be any signs during the regular season that now-extended Dan Bylsma has learned from his lesson of hubris in terms of coaching this team to consistent success?

Dejan Kovacevic: Haven't heard any yet.

Maybe watching how the Blackhawks won that game last night — with all three forwards going to the net for Michal Rozsival's point shot to beat the previously impregnable fortress that is Tuukka Rask — in Clockwork Orange, eye-peeling, eye-drop fashion would do the trick.

Comment From Trevor: Do you think Ray Shero was being truthful when he said both he and ownership were behind Dan Bylsma and Fleury? I just don't see how both these guys get unanimous votes of confidence after the past 4 years.

Dejan Kovacevic: I do not believe the ownership entered the process the past couple days feeling great about Bylsma, no. I do believe the ownership believes passionately in Shero, and that's what led to the support that was described.

Comment From JuniataKid: Any idea what metric the Pirates use that demonstrates that Barmes' glove gives the Pirates a better chance at winning than Mercer's bat?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm betting that the metric involved in his $5 million salary has something to do with it. Those guys are never, ever, ever easy to let go. Lots of embarrassment in that.

Comment From T.S.: When you're covering Pittsburgh teams on the road in Chicago, what's your favorite part of the city?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's weird, but as many billions of times as I've covered events in Chicago, I hardly ever get into the city. The United Center is way out to the west, Wrigley Field is way up north, Comiskey way down south, and even the new Soldier Field is a bit out of the core. I might know less about downtown Chicago than I do about downtown Edmonton (where I've only been three times).

Comment From Matt from New Castle: Last I heard that record is 20-21 in the playoffs since the win in 2009

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Matt. This group being below .500 in the playoffs over four years is crazy.

Comment From Guest: Please provide a link of the questions that you asked Ray Shero and his responses. Do you think he gets that part of the problem is how stubborn His coach is with the system and his dogged faith in it - even in light of all empirical evidence to the contrary?

Dejan Kovacevic: Already did. It's right here on this very blog.

Comment From Nick: Do you see any of the young Baby Pens Dmen making a contribution next season and, if so, which one is the closest?

Dejan Kovacevic: I would first look to suddenly-top-four-D-man Simon Despres first, then Robert Bortuzzo once he's re-signed as an RFA. Those guys will get dibs. From there, Brian Dumoulin might be the guy who's next in line. Solid full season in Wilkes-Barre, did a little bit of everything. Big, strong, left-handed. It would take one whale of a camp, but he can do it.

Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Mike Tomlin has stressed “conditioning” in the early Steeler get togethers. Have you seen signs of players doing just that?

Dejan Kovacevic: You'll always see conditioning going on all around you at any NFL camp. There are so many players, and the facilities on the South Side, in particular, are in full view. That doesn't mean much, though. What does is that a couple of these players, notably LaMarr Woodley, are visibly in better shape. Woodley isn't dramatically lighter, but you can definitely see it.

Maybe just as important where Woodley is concerned, based on a long talk he and I had over there on Tuesday, his high ankle sprain is 100 percent. He sounded exasperated every time he mentioned it.

Comment From T.S.: Do you sense that the Pirates will be buyers at the trade deadline? I think, even if they're a little over, at, or just under .500, they should.

Dejan Kovacevic: There is absolutely no circumstance under which the Pirates shouldn't be buyers. Not least of which is that the front office isn't assured of continued employment beyond this season.

Comment From T.S.: I like Jerricho Cotchery; think he should be thrown to more. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I like Cotchery, but I'd rather see him used in four-wide sets. Too similar to the top two guys. I know Plaxico Burress is getting up there, but he's still in outstanding shape, and we all know how Ben feels about throwing to him. If you're looking at a No. 3 (not that you'd put Plax in the slot), he might be it.

Comment From BenderHeel: How do the Pens expect Simon Despres to be a “top 4 defenseman” next year when they regularly viewed him as not being a top 6 d-man this year? Will he get better this offseason? Or will the subtraction of others (i.e., Letang) necessarily make Despres top 4 but not of his own merit?

Dejan Kovacevic: My favorite exit talk with any of the Penguins the other day was with Despres. Unfortunately, really haven't had a chance to write about it, so I'll share here: When I asked Despres pointedly how he felt about the coaching staff scratching him earlier this season against “physical teams” such as the Flyers, he responded with an unprintable epithet.

Good for him. That's how he should have felt. It was unnecessarily — and publicly — demeaning to treat a top young talent that way.

Comment From Bruce: Just thinking about Crosbys collapse during the Boston series....could it be the SI cover curse? Just saying.....happy for #71

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, the SI sitting on my desk here has Tuukka Rask on the cover, so ...

Comment From John: In hindsight after seeing the last few months play out, was giving up Joe Morrow for Brenden Morrow a bad deal for the Penguins?

Dejan Kovacevic: You have to pay the price when you go for it. Not going to fault Shero on that at all. That's one of those deals that you know going in will help the other party more over the long term.

Comment From Guest 23: A Clockwork Orange was an awesome movie-wasn't it?

Dejan Kovacevic: An even better book.

Comment From Mike in New Mexico: Love your work Dejan and it was easier to stay up to watch that terrific hockey game last night in the mountain time zone...if a Letang trade does happen, who would be the best trade partner, Edmonton?

Dejan Kovacevic: Anytime trying to guess such things — and that's all it can be — always look to the franchises deepest in prospects but also with clear needs. It isn't simple. Minnesota, for example, has tons of prospects but also just invested half its net worth in Ryan Suter. Montreal would be willing to overpay, but they aren't exactly loaded, and they have P.K. Subban. Edmonton always has a bazillion prospects, but their needs on D are defense first. They've got their offensive guy in Justin Schultz.

Comment From T.S.: Given what's happened with the Pens the last few days, do you see a short leash on Bylsma if the Penguins start off next season poorly? Sort of as a yeah-we-endorse-him-today-but-if-he-fails-to-make-changes-in-his-game-strategizing-he's-gone.

Dejan Kovacevic: Handing out two-year extensions, then immediately firing that person, is not a great way for a GM to maintain trust from his bosses. Won't happen.

Comment From Victor: DK, I went to Montreal for a Pens game this past season. Give me another city I should absolutely visit next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd try the provincial capital of Manitoba, but that's just me. No, really, you'll never experience anything like an NHL game inside the MTS Centre. Insanity.

Comment From Patrick(RI): When do you think folks will figure out you are no longer the Pirate beat writer (tongue stuck deep in cheek)?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's been a couple years now, but yeah, I still get asked what the future considerations might be in the John McDonald trade. That's flattering, though. I did that beat for five-plus years and am proud of the work done on it.

That said, I can't begin to tell you how much more I'm enjoying this. Chance of a lifetime, and I'm grateful for it every day I wake up.

Comment From Stan: When was the first time you suspected major PED use in baseball? As a younger fan it seems odd that no one was pointing it out in the late 90s. I'm curious to hear when you first started to see it develop as a story.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll go to the McGwire-Sosa tour, as I'd suspect most folks would. I was only a season-ticket holder way back then, but I remember being one of the very few people at Three Rivers who never applauded either player. There was something just so wholly unnatural about what they were doing that it was unsettling.

I feel that way about a lot of players today, too, though I understand that anyone who even breathes such a thing gets vilified.

Weird, too. People admonish the media (rightly) for having not asked the tough questions regarding steroids during McGwire/Sosa/Bonds, but anyone who brings it up today gets utterly destroyed. Look at Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox getting ripped up for daring to question Jose Bautista. It's as if people want to kid themselves into thinking that it was just those handful of guys from the 1990s and 2000s, and now it's over and done.

Can't have it both ways.

Comment From Mike: OMG, hockey season in Pittsburgh is *over*, and we have a baseball team with a strong winning record playing almost every day. Many of us fans want to hear about the latter. We're turned off by the never-ending hockey chatter...

Dejan Kovacevic: You're multiple people, Mike. Does that mean you have to pay multiple taxes each April?

If you don't like discussion on all Pittsburgh sports, you've come to the wrong place.

Comment From Brian: How is “The Final Word” doing in terms of ratings? Any danger of being killed off in an episode?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've said before, I'm not going to get into numbers or the horse race or anything like that. I'll answer your question, though, by telling you emphatically that it's doing quite well, and it'll be around for a long, long time.

Thank you for watching!

Comment From Guest: Dejan, is Dupuis the next resign for the Pens or do they try to get younger? Also, any chance we see Murray in a Pens sweater next year? I like the physicality in his game and his ability to clear the front of the net.

Dejan Kovacevic: I think the Penguins will turn to Letang as a courtesy, and then, when he rejects their offer, they'll go hard at Pascal Dupuis. I really do. Doesn't mean they'll get him, but the effort will be there much more so than the Staal-like take-it-or-leave-it with Letang.

Comment From JamesinNYC: Should Crosby have kept the full shield longer? Like Rip Hamilton keeping the clear mask thing, I think he still wears it out on the town.

Dejan Kovacevic: The shield thing is crazy overblown. Cheap narrative.

Watch the Blackhawks' winning goal last night. You'll find your answers.

Comment From T.S.: Will you ever write a book(s)? If so, do you have a specific topic/topics in mind?

Dejan Kovacevic: I would only write one book on one topic, and it would be a best-seller, I'll predict, among at least one set of local sporting fans. The stuff in it would blow your mind 1,000 ways to Sunday.

But the chapter isn't closed yet.

Comment From JoeyBats: I know you can't publicly “name names” but is it your feeling that anyone on current PBC roster is juicing? PED's?

Dejan Kovacevic: I always feel that way. That antenna never goes down.

Comment From Ryan: Do the Pens have to win the Cup every year for DB to keep his job?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's kind of the way this is shaping up, isn't it?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all I have for this week.

I'm taking all of next week off, catching up on days owed from the Stanley Cup playoff run. I was going to take this week off, but Gerrit Cole's debut and the Steelers' minicamp prompted me to stick around a few extra days.

Everything will return beginning Monday, June 24.

Go see “Man of Steel.” Opens tomorrow night. It's the Superman we know from the comics, and it looks just wonderful.

Thanks for participating!

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