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Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: Jan. 17, 2014

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 1:16 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: No need to delay. Just fire away ...

Mike: If you were Shero and you saw no improvement in Letang's D-zone play before deadline, and you could turn him into a winger like Wheeler or Kane, do YOU pull the trigger? Does Shero consider it?

Dejan Kovacevic: If I really was Ray Shero, I'd be smart enough to know, first of all, that Winnipeg isn't parting with Evander Kane. He's 22. He works with the age group they want to build. Keep hearing his name. Shouldn't. Blake Wheeler is a much more realistic possibility to be moved by the Jets.

Second, again speaking from the if-I'm-Shero standpoint, when committing a contract the size of Letang's, I wanted to be very, very sure that what I believed in offering it — that Letang is one of the game's very best defensemen — isn't still true. The very last thing I want is to get rash, get rid of him, then watch him collect Norris Trophies elsewhere.

I know that's not what a lot of folks want to hear. But no, I'm not trading Letang.

Arriba Wilver: Are you surprised Pitt's in the top 25 already? Not whether they deserve it, they obviously do, but THAT they deserve it?

Dejan Kovacevic: Seriously? They're 16-1 overall, 4-0 in one of the best basketball conferences in the country. Sure, the tougher part of their schedule is still to come, most powerfully tomorrow in Syracuse, but come on ...

Steve from SA: Straight up Letang for Wheeler?

Dejan Kovacevic: Make it stop.

Bring Back the Jolly Roger: Were the previous statements by Pirate management that the major league payroll would potentially match the increases in ticket sales outright lies, stretching of the truth a little white lie or an “I have some swamp land in Florida” lie or none of the above?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ironically, the biggest lie I've heard so far this offseason is the one where the Pirates claimed to have this super-fantastic TV deal — “upper half” of the industry, per Frank Coonelly — a point that only emboldens those who ask why they aren't spending it.

Coonelly made the remark at PirateFest and did so from a defensive posture — not uncommon — because a fan essentially questioned why Coonelly, the man responsible for the deal, culled infinitely less for the Pirates than other teams have gotten since. Notably, the Padres, based in a smaller market than Pittsburgh with nowhere near the ratings, are now getting roughly $80 million per year, the Pirates less than $30 million.


But rather than confessing that the Pirates just blew it or didn't hire the right outside advisers — they didn't — they'll expect you accept both that their TV contract is fantastic AND that they can't afford more than what they're spending.


TonyF-central-NY: Dejan, Lots of speculation from everyone about Ike and Troy next year. When do you think might be the first time we get something factual from the Steelers on that? James Harrison aside, recent history seems to suggest that, at minimum, they get to play out the last year of their current deals. Unless significant cap relief is really needed. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Art Rooney II made an emphatic case for Troy Polamalu just this week. Our Alan Robinson reported on it . Art wants Troy back, and there was nothing vague about how he stated it. Still haven't heard about Ike.

To me, Troy's a no-brainer, especially since you'll likely see Ryan Clark leave. Can't have two holes at safety. But Ike is a far tougher issue. He's taking up a ton of cap space, and there was a visible step backward in 2013.

Dave in Ross: How's the NHL feeling now that MLB and possibly the NFL are now going to “nerve” centers for calls following the NHL mold? Has that ever happened before?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean the NHL being someone's role model? Ha! I'm guessing not. But good for them. The replay system in hockey is without peer. It's quicker, it's more accurate, and it doesn't place undue pressure on the on-ice officials.

All hail Toronto.

Guest: Why no one is talking about getting rid of Brooks Orpik? He is constantly out of position and a liability on defense. Plus he wont be here next year since his contract is up.

Dejan Kovacevic: Let's say you're right. Let's say Orpik spends the entire season, moreover, as a liability. He's an unrestricted free agent next season.

What do you think his trade value would be in those two contexts?

A fifth-round pick?


Even in the worst setting, it's smarter to keep him.

fatboy1271: Hey DK! Will you be out here in LA for the Pens/Kings game? I follow you for all of my Pittsburgh sports info, so I'd love to say hi and shake your hand at the game.

Dejan Kovacevic: Alas, no, I'll be flying very, very far in the opposite direction soon enough to cover some other hockey. But the sentiment's genuinely appreciated. I humbly offer a chat-level handshake.

Dejan: Have you heard any reaction from Pitt fans/coaches/etc. on the Franklin hire since the “Dominate the State” press conference? As a PSU alum, I've missed the PSU-Pitt games and am looking forward the rivarly picking up steam again.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've been told that Pitt's coaches, including Paul Chryst, won't be addressing that. And really, I'm not sure what the benefit would be if they did. Imagine a guy like Chryst saying, “You're going to dominate the state? Oh, yeah? What about us?” It isn't him. It would come across as phony and contrived, given what we all know his personality to be.

Dave: Please explain how you believe the “ACC is one of the best basketball conferences in the country” this year? From my vantage point it is way way down.

Dejan Kovacevic: You added “this year.” I didn't. My point was that Pitt easily deserves to be in the top 25, not an automatic berth in the Final Four. I was using their conference record in a prominent conference to bolster that simple point.

Rob: If you're Winnipeg would you trade Wheeler for Letang?(kidding) What is the latest on Vokoun and, provided he returns to form, how do you think the Pens will handle the back up goalie situation?

Dejan Kovacevic: Tomas Vokoun is still taking blood-thinners as of a week ago. As long as that's the case, he can't go on the ice for any reason at all. Not looking good.

NotReallyShero: I know it won't happen, but for entertainment purposes, what do you think other teams would give up for Olli Maatta?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maatta isn't going anywhere. His name should never come up in any speculation.

Glenn: Hi D.K., I think the steeler's should ask Moye to gain weight/muscle and move him to TE. Tall,good hand's,know's WR play's(which would only help)and could save TE pick for later round's.Your thought's?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you ever saw Derek Moye walking around without pads, you wouldn't waste one millisecond picturing him as a tight end. Seriously lanky kid. He'd get destroyed in his first series.

I would, however, like to see Moye and Markus Wheaton get more of a serious look at Latrobe this summer. The Steelers still need a receiver from the outside to replace Emmanuel Sanders, but they'll be hurting if neither of those two — especially Wheaton — materializes into a real threat to Jerricho Cotchery as soon as next season.

Dave in Ross: What does everyone expect Mr. Franklin to say? I'll let Pitt have whoever they want? Is that statement such a big deal? Rally? Who cares? Go get whoever you can get should be the motto for all coaches.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've been amused all week by some Penn State fans trying to downplay the fuss caused by James Franklin's remarks, as if trying to protect him from something. News flash: He made the statement four times with zero prodding. He wanted to cause a fuss. He wanted Penn State to look bold in its recruiting attempts, in its identity.

Wake up! Moreover, he made those four pronouncements before I ever got the microphone to ask the question about Pitt.

He wanted people to talk about it.

Dan: What is happening with the Steeler”s OC/DC? Don't you think it is time to replace Dick?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm on record as supporting the move of Keith Butler to defensive coordinator, as well as Dick LeBeau — since he wants to stay on and deserves it — into some newly created position that could involve an assistant head coach title like the one John Mitchell carries. It's not a conventional solution, but it isn't a conventional situation.

Hate to sound age-ist here, but LeBeau will be 77. He's sharp as ever, and that's fantastic. We should all be so fortunate. But the Steelers have a mostly new group on defense, and they'll deserve the same continuity the previous group enjoyed.

Patrick: Is it time to bring back “No Soup” for these chats?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe, but only as it relates to some Penn State fans being squeamish about their own new head coach making a bold statement. He made it. Stop running from it. Embrace it. Very, very clearly, it's what Franklin wanted.

Yimmy: Given how wrong you were on the Kyle Stark military training story, why should we believe you on this latest Frank Coonelly TV deal story?

Dejan Kovacevic: This stuff cracks me up, honestly. The Pirates had a wonderfully successful 2013, but there's absolutely nothing about the Navy SEALS/Hoka Hey columns that's one iota less than factual. That didn't change. Not in the slightest.

The Pirates made history in 2013. They didn't rewrite it.

But hey, since you brought it up, go ask someone if the team used those wacky military practices just now during this past Instructional League. Or if they heeded Bob Nutting's orders to knock it off.

Pittsburgh: Dejan, Did you graduate college?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nope. As I've written a few times before, I'm 11 credits shy at Duquesne and plan to keep it that way. Got hooked up with the other paper in town as a freshman and never really looked back beyond taking a few extra classes as time allowed.

Hoenstly, couldn't care less. Anyone in newspapers will tell you the only way to learn this job is to learn on the job.

wally: No question, just a comment. Really nice piece on Curtis Bray. Sounds like a rare and quality guy. Very sad for his family.

Dejan Kovacevic: I appreciate that, Wally, as well as the many, many people who reached out with their memories of Curtis. It's staggering to think of what could have been, on so many levels.

Max: Why dont you post on your blog all the questions you choose not to answer because they are tough questions?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, I'm really ducking them, huh?

Yimmy: You didn't answer why we should believe you about the TV deal.

Dejan Kovacevic: By all means, don't. Believe the Pirates that a deal that pays less than $30 million annually ranks in the “upper half” of the industry when it takes nothing more than a cursory Google search to see the amounts other teams are getting. Go nuts with that.

Matt in Ann Arbor: Instead of a Lightining round, can we just skip all the questions from Trolls?

Dejan Kovacevic: I like that. Every once in a while, they're fun to take because it's just so, so, so easy.

PortalMan: Why aren't you on the KDKA Sports Showdown anymore?

Dejan Kovacevic: OK, just this one more: Because I'm on WPXI-TV's ‘Subway Final Word' that airs opposite that show, also at 11:35 p.m. Sundays, and absolutely thrilled to be part of it, just as I was proud to be on the KDKA show. The Trib has a working partnership with WPXI, and you'll notice that all of the newspaper panelists on the show are from the Trib.

Hope you can check us out sometime!

Adam: How has Taylor Pyatt looked to you so far and where do you think he might fit when (if) the Pens get back to full health?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've liked his game a lot over the past two, but there's nothing striking about that. Everyone could see that. Looks to me like Pyatt's taken a while to find his niche, but the whole big-body-going-to-the-net niche will work just fine in this context.

Good guy, too. He could be a quality pickup.

Steel By Design: Recent history says Steelers don't tend to go after CB's in round 1. Coincidence, or a team philosophy? Does that change this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Can't see the Steelers locking into one position, when there are so many needs, primarily on defense. I've cited corner, inside linebacker and wide receiver, in that order, but it gets spoken all the time for a reason that you go with the best player in the first round. Just can't afford to miss on the best actual talent up there.

Dejan Kovacevic: Tampa Bay Lightning round, anyone?

CH: You're a pretty high-tech guy, so what's an app you absolutely can not live without?

Dejan Kovacevic: JustUnfollow is a vital one for Twitter. Best app I've ever seen of any kind is the new one by Delta Airlines. Fantastic.

JB: Do you think the Pirates go with Jose Tabata in RF and concentrate on a bonafide 1b option? I believe Tabata should have been in lineup NLDS game 4 definitely game 5 vs Stl,

Dejan Kovacevic: Tabata's going to be your seat-warmer in right field, with Gregory Polanco up at some point. I'm OK with that. Not with first base.

Victor: DK, if became the NHL commissioner today, what is the first thing you would change about the league, besides relocation.

Dejan Kovacevic: One move? Bigger nets. Just by the width of the current posts and crossbar, and no more. The players are far bigger than they were, and so is their equipment. They've outgrown the nets and the rinks.

Chris Schmidt: Imagine how good Cam Wright could be if he could dribble.

Dejan Kovacevic: Cam's doing just fine. It's been interesting to watch as he's had maybe the most difficult transition from out-of-conference play to ACC, but what I hear from him is that he values his defensive role above all. Building off that, he's just fine.

Bill: Hi DK, Can pens win in playoffs without adding to 3rd and/or 4th lines?

Dejan Kovacevic: In playoffs, yes, of course. The East stinks. But not the Cup.

Paul: Did they do anything different to the Heinz Field grass this year. It looked pretty good all year

Dejan Kovacevic: That's because they kept painting it green. This actually isn't a joke.

The Capital of Greenland: Are the Pirates done making moves, or can we expect a late deal for a 1B?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds to me like you'll have a left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez, and that's it. Really don't think it'll be Andrew Lambo, but I could be wrong.

Patrick Roy: How damaged is Despres' trade value?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a very real factor here. Teams notice when you don't like a guy. The moves don't happen in vacuums. More questions get asked.

Breno: One replay system better than hockey's - Tennis.

Dejan Kovacevic: So much simpler, though. Nothing obstructing the ball and the chalk lines.

Bob: Would the Penguins ever be okay letting a key player go to the Olympics early and miss a couple games like the Bruins did with Chara?

Dejan Kovacevic: I hope not, but then, Zdeno Chara's a rare example. He's everything to Slovakia, and his country is very important to him. If the Bruins are aware of that, they'll find value in doing right by his wishes over the long term.

SoaringEagle: I think it would be fun at the end of the chat for you to post your most bizarre/funny question.

Dejan Kovacevic: What if I just did?

Mike: Simon Despres: Not Given a Fair Chance..... or.... Hasn't Earned Playing Time?

Dejan Kovacevic: Two words: Olli Maatta.

Pete: How many questions to you receive in a given chat?

Dejan Kovacevic: Tends to be in the 700-800 range. But I'll still hear from people fuming that I didn't take theirs. I try. I'll spread the sports out as much as possible, I'll always prefer something that's timely and makes me think and, as you've seen today, I'll even take some from the quacks.

TIm: What about Jeff Zatkoff for Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, and a bag of pucks?

Dejan Kovacevic: Throw in a Wheeling Nailer and we'll talk, bud.

Troy Edwards: Hey, nothing wrong with locking in on a position in 1st rd!!

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Well played, ‘Troy.'

Brian: Dejan, besides hockey, what sports will you look forward to watching the most in Sochi?

Dejan Kovacevic: Speedskating — the real one, not short track — is absolutely breathtaking to witness in person. And having Shani Davis going for gold again doesn't hurt.

Rob: What are your thoughts on the ‘not that big of a deal' reaction of Cowher when talking about spygate?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounded to me like the coach wanted to avoid a sour-grapes type headline at this stage of his career.

The Capital of Greenland: Is Pitt a long shot to win tomorrow?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't see why they would be. Syracuse isn't at full strength, they're 187th in the country in rebounds, and Jamie Dixon has gone 10-4 against Jim Boeheim — 5-1 at the Carrier Dome — over the years, to just cite three quick factors.

I'm not predicting anything here, but I'm not sure I'd categorize it as some colossal upset if Pitt wins.

Matt: Will the olympic break be the difference in Fleury's late season play this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: It could be if you assume his troubles were physical or even mental fatigue. I didn't see that. I saw a guy who just lost his confidence.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all the time for this week. I do appreciate all the participation, trolls included, and am legitimately grateful the place is as vibrant as it is week after week. Consider the alternative.

My next column will be Monday, and it will be about the Penguins' defense. The TribLIVE Radio show is Wednesday, this here chat is every Friday, and the blog is like styrofoam. Always there.

Thank you.

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