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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: June 22, 2012

| Thursday, June 21, 2012, 2:33 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hello to all. No shortage of issues today, obviously, with Jordan Staal, the NHL Draft, the Pirates finally scoring a little, and whatever else you want to discuss ...

Zach: Jordan Staal has been a great guy during his run in Pittsburgh, so how much does the way this situation has played out surprise you? I don't question that his intentions are noble, but this really hasn't been the most amicable split, as it seems that is what we are headed for.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've never liked attaching the phrase "good guy" to someone based on where they want to work or live in professional sports. As you seem to note there, if Staal wants to play with Eric and Jared in Carolina, his intentions aren't exactly bad.

The primary point of my Staal column this morning was that he needs to stand up and tell the Penguins what he wants.

John: Given the Staal news, what leverage is left for Shero? I mean, isn't he basically left with whatever Carolina will offer for Staal, meaning that the Pens will be left with way below value in any trade?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not necessarily. Remember, all it takes is one team. Others in similar situations in the past have felt they'd be the one that could get a player to change his mind about long-term extensions. It can happen.

Just not likely, from the sound of it.

Best bet: Talk to Carolina, work something out.

Brian: Dejan, You mention in your column that the Team wanted the Staal extension offer known. By putting that info out to the public do they not run the risk of being backed into a "Carolina or bust" trading partner scenario, which has obviously come to pass? Sure, the Team played its "We made an offer" - card, but don't they know that the Staal camp would then play its "Carolina or bust" - card? Now Pens can't look for best offer.

Dejan Kovacevic: One way or the other, Brian, in a setting like this, both angles would get known. Regardless of who puts out which leak. As it was, it all happened in the same day.

Aaron: havent heard anyone else mention this, but do you believe that the reason the pirates havent brought up owens/locke/wilson is just to give lincoln every opportunity to be a starter? think it might be possible that NH is trying to protect their trade value?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've heard that from a couple other readers, as well, this idea that keeping Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson in the minors is being done to protect their trade value.

No chance.

Just doesn't work like that. If anything, you'd want to enhance that pitcher's value just by showing how he handles the poise required of major-league games, the results being secondary. There's way more value in ANY major-league experience than none.

And if you mean from the standpoint of delaying the arbitration clock, we're well past that stage of the summer now.

Jared in MT: Dejan, honestly if Barmes wasn't signed for 2 years at 10 million would he still even be on the team, let alone starting almost every day? Neal's been able to admit his mistakes and cut guys before but I think this contract is just too big for him to do it without publicly admitting that he's been terrible at signing position player free agents.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, however anyone feels about Barmes, I think there would have to be universal agreement that the misuse right now of Jordy Mercer is moving well past being weird and now into being outright wrong. Mercer is a real prospect in the eyes of most, and he's been in the majors for a month while getting all of nine at-bats plus a couple pinch-running appearances.

This flies in the face of everything Neal Huntington and his staff have preached -- and executed -- for five years. The kid needs to play. Play him here, or play him there, but don't turn him into Miguel Dilone.

As for Barmes, in fairness, he's batting .283 in June with a home run, three doubles and eight RBIs. The overall number is going to look bad almost no matter what he does because of the horrible April and May. No real issue with letting him try to continue a stretch like that.

Chef: How excited are you for the return of breaking bad?

Dejan Kovacevic: Excited enough to blow up a turtle. (Sorry. You'd have to watch to get it.)

Bubby Brister: Who is the most unheralded backup QB for the Steelers in the past 25 years?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you went back further than that, I'd say Terry Hanratty. In recent times, I'd go with Neil O'Donnell behind the Bubster himself. (Ducks for cover.)

Or you could just give it to Charlie Batch based on having filled the role for all three decades.

Jay: In your blog , you said that the Oilers covet D. Would they want someone like Orpik? He's a leader and a sound defenseman. Who else would be have to give for Yakupov?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. Steve Tambellini wants to build within the age group the Oilers already have in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and the rest. That's the kind of D-man they'd want. So if you're looking at that age bracket in the Penguins' organization, you're talking Simon Despres.

Doesn't sound like a match there.

Chuck: Dejan, Read your article on Stall today and agree 100%. Two questions, first do you not feel Stall is worth a first round draft pick in this years draft (thinking Carolina at #8) and second, if you are Ray Shero and can not get the right trade for him now, do you keep him in the same role this year going forward or do you start reducing his role now looking for a replacement?

Dejan Kovacevic: I feel Staal is worth a lot MORE than the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. But this isn't about even swaps. It's about circumstances. Carolina holds the cards. They've certainly got no reason to rush into anything.

Like I wrote, Shero's in for the challenge of his career here. You just CAN'T get nothing for Jordan Staal.

Dave: Why wouldnt Shero try to trade Staal at this point? This sounds like what is happening in Orlando with Dwight Howard.. they never traded him, he's leaving and they will get nothing.

Dejan Kovacevic: I thought Howard said he'd stay with the Magic for another year. Am I mistaken?

At any rate, Staal isn't going to leave for nothing. Shero has made that clear. He's not just going to walk out the door for a comp pick. If something happens in either direction, it will be this summer.

TeamIan: Hi Dejan, happy draft day. Thanks to your blog, I started reading about Nail Yakupov and about how he could be the first breakout Tatar player. I honestly know very little about the Tatar minority in Russia, but it sounds like he could be something of a transformative figure there. It's pretty neat how hockey (and sports) have the ability to heal wounds and bring pride, wouldn't you say?

Dejan Kovacevic: It really is, and it's one of hockey's great attributes that it's so international in composition. We'll see scenes like that this summer, too, when Anze Kopitar takes the Cup to Slovenia, a tiny country with the population of Allegheny County.

Yakupov is a fascinating, passionate personality with a ton to offer the sport. And the kid can seriously move, too, if you looked at the clips. Someone will get lucky tonight to have him.

Albert: How is Stanford's hockey team?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Fair question to ask, in light of the Steelers and Pirates both getting crazy lucky in having exceptional Stanford players fall their way in their respective drafts this year.

Also, I'm not finding any pucks on the Cardinal website:

Frank: Alfonso Soriano seems to be available for a song; with the Cubs apparently willing to pick up a HUGE portion of his EVEN HUGER salary. If so.....I say make it happen NOW. We need a bat; hs is among the best available. I hate the idea of waiting until the trade deadline to make a move. Its just as important to win games in June and July as September. Make the Cubs an offer they can't ignore.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, you're making it sound like the Cubs would want nothing other than for a team to pick up a couple million of Soriano's money and call it a day. That's not their motivation. What they'd want is to pick up a big chunk of Soriano's salary so that they can secure real, live prospects in return.

Still like that deal?

The Astros are trying the same thing with Carlos Lee.

I've pushed the find-a-bat-now stance pretty hard for a while now, but I'm not giving up prospects for rentals. Infinitely more important, neither are the Pirates.

Steve: At what point to you "buy" Pedro "arriving"...I hate getting teased every other week.

Dejan Kovacevic: How about a full month?

Honestly, it's so hard to say because when he has these outbursts, they're so tantalizing you almost can't process that he could go right back to being the worst hitter in baseball as soon as next week.

I mean, did you see that swing last night?

Not where the ball landed. But the swing itself.

That's special.

Vav800: Even with his hiccup the other night, I think Jason Grilli is the one guy who deserves a ton of credit for what he has done for the Pirates this year. I can't remember the last time I saw a Bucco's bullpen THIS rock solid and he is a main reason why.

Dejan Kovacevic: Joel Hanrahan remains the main reason why, but Grilli isn't far behind. His ability to give the team clean innings, plus the wholly unexpected jump in his strikeouts, has been so key for the Pirates that Evan Meek has become almost completely forgotten in Indy.

I'd throw Juan Cruz in there, too, though he hasn't been as good this month. And Tony Watson, the lefty the Pirates weren't sure they had.

Matt: Do you think Emmanuel Sanders breaks out this year?'

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not in that camp, Matt. Sanders has to first demonstrate he can stay on the field. He hasn't done that at all. From there, he has to beat out Jerricho Cotchery for regular duty. From there, he has to convince Todd Haley the Steelers are better off having Sanders out there than another tight end or fullback or even a scatback like Chris Rainey.

That's a lot to overcome to get into breakout territory.

That said, Sanders surely has the highest potential to be a true possession-type receiver.

PirateApologist: Dejan, any early thoughts on the playoff system for college football?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's ridiculously, amazingly overdue, but I can't do anything but applaud. The games themselves are going to make for exceptional theater as opposed to just opening acts, and I think it will take college football to a whole new level financially and in every other sense.

Many, many gigantic ups to Jim Delaney and the rest of the commissioners who got this done. (Almost.)

But the best part is this: Somehow these guys were able to pull this off without letting conference politics dominate. By that I mean, it would have been tempting to try to favor the new "big four" and shut out the rest. So far -- that's so far -- it hasn't happened.

I do believe the Tampa Bay Lightning is on the clock. Quick Qs, quick As to close it out today ...

Guest: What do you think about J-Mac and Burrnetts all star chances?

Dejan Kovacevic: McDonald and Andrew McCutchen are musts. A.J. Burnett and Hanrahan in the next tier.

Jon: Looks like Bobrovsky was moved to Columbus for Picks...does that take Philly out of the Nash sweepstakes?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. It just means that Bobrovsky will wind up in L.A. and help the Kings win another Cup.

Jandy: Not to beat the Staal issue to death...but this is giving me flashbacks of Hossa. I don't like the vibes.

Dejan Kovacevic: I see zero similarities in the situations. Honestly.

amos otis: HA- HA Miguel Dilone!!! the line of the year....I laughed so hard, my boss came over to check on me!!!! hilarious...

Dejan Kovacevic: Congrats on being the only one who probably got it.

Markus: any thoughts on lebron winning title last night... i enjoy your work by the way..

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks. A championship is a championship. Anyone who wins one did something right. But the manner in which the Heat was built ... doesn't anyone still find that completely distasteful?

Seemed like all the reaction last night was that somehow James had proven people wrong. Not seeing that. Go through history, and the truly great ones can take ANY franchise to the promised land. The Cavs of earlier this decade were in far better shape than the 1980s Penguins, but Mario still got it done in Pittsburgh without having a secret-society meeting with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier to take their talents to South Ontario.

Scott: Do you keep Wallace or Brown if you could only have one? I'd like to see Brown double-teamed and Wallace with the consistent open field before making any further judgement.

Dejan Kovacevic: Exactly. But you wouldn't. Nothing scares a defense like the guys who can blow the top off the coverage.

Gregory: OK, Martin had a concussion in the Playoffs; states he wants to win with the Pens and show he's a good d-man. Why wait until now to start? Did it really take this long to figure out what the Pens system asks him to do?

Dejan Kovacevic: What else would you have had Paul Martin say there?

His candor was admirable, even if he obviously did something pretty dumb by playing through actual concussion symptoms

tom: Dejan, what do you think about letting McDonald throw 120 pitches in a game that was decided well before it ended.

Dejan Kovacevic: I loved Clint Hurdle's call, loved McDonald's determination even more. You can see and hear from McDonald all the time how much it means to show he can pitch deep into games. This was the first complete game of his career.

No WAY you take that from him without a chance.

And remember, as Hurdle tersely noted last night, Ryan Doumit was going to be the last batter no matter what.

MarkV: What are the chances Staal signs a shorter term deal for more money per year, say 4-5 years at 7 mil?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think term has anything to do with this. Why so much mail suggesting Staal would be happier with a shorter deal? That's just not how it works in the NHL. The only route to huge guaranteed money is longer term.


Dejan Kovacevic: Whoa! Seriously? Hockey at Stanford?

Well, there it is. The Penguins' first-rounder has to be somewhere on that roster, right?

Wild Bill: Read a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter remark today how good Willingham would look in the Pirates' lineup. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Josh Willingham would be a fine fit, and that's been true for a couple years now. He sure picked a fine time to have a nice series, too.

JohninOshkosh: Do any family members (wife, children, brother, etc) routinely read your blog, because if they do, on behalf of all the blogphiles that like to give you the business...I'm sorry.

Dejan Kovacevic: They don't. So you can keep, as the NFL ref once said, giving me the business.

algiff: I think Pedro is 100 percent mental when hes in a good place mentally he does well, when hes struggling he looks like the unhappiest man on the planet.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yogi?

Guest: Kind of funny and sad seeing Doumit single-handedly hand the Bucs a couple of runs in the series opener....

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean sad in the sense that the Pirates have somehow gotten WORSE in the area of throwing out base-stealers since Ryan Doumit left, yeah.

Guest: Any insight into the perception of Huntington around baseball? Well respected? Laughingstock? Too conservative? etc.

Dejan Kovacevic: Would benefit from a little more boldness at the major-league level.

Couple more today ..

Mark: Is the Staal thing purely financial or is it because he wants top billing elsewhere?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think it's either. It just sounds like he has a vision of having a big family thing. Remember, it's not just Marc and Jared. The parents are spending a lot of time in the Raleigh-Durham area, too.

Guest: Pirates remain in Divisional or Wild card contention through (pick a month, date, end of season, etc.)....

Dejan Kovacevic: Past the trading deadline this time, for sure.

Ryan: Do you think there is a chance staal gets dealt today and if so who you think for? I think Murphy ruutu and 8th pick overall is fair?

Dejan Kovacevic: There are no indications of it happening today. And the only urgency in that event would be Carolina's No. 8 overall pick, anyway. There are ways to replace something like that in a trade.

But admit, you'll squirm every time the little man steps to the mic and says, "We have a trade to announce!"

Thanks for participating. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The chat will go back to its usual Thursday next week. And the blog is like Teemu Selanne, always back for more.

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