OTTAWA ON - OCTOBER 26: Alex Kovalev #27 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a goal against the Phoenix Coyotes with his teammates on the bench during a game at Scotiabank Place on October 26 2010 in Ottawa Ontario Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

Ottawa Senators Trade Alex Kovalev To Pittsburgh Penguins

The Ottawa Senators traded Alex Kovalev to a familiar team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's Kovalev's second stint in Pittsburgh, but fans might not recognize the player that once scored 44 goals for their team.

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Mario Lemieux Vouched For Alex Kovalev's Reputation Before Trade

Alex Kovalev has become a bit of an --- hey, get ready for this word again -- enigma since his last stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 2000s. His reputation took a hit in his most recent stop, Ottawa, and it didn't help that he was making more money than his production called for, too.

If there's any evidence that there was virtually no market for Kovalev this season (due to both his cap hit and his reputation), you only have to look as far as what was given up for him -- a conditional sixth or seventh round pick in the 2011 draft. Yes, it's possible (though unlikely) that Kovalev was traded for Mr. Irrelevant 2011. 

So why did the Penguins feel he was a good fit? Dan Bylsma is the kind of coach that won't deal with guys who don't work, after all. Well, apparently, Penguins legend Mario Lemieux stuck up for his former teammate before the deal.

"Mario was more of a character reference than anything," general manager Ray Shero told the media on Thursday. "Mario has always said, ‘You guys know the players.' But having known Alexei Kovalev, certainly he goes to bat for him as a person and a teammate and things like that."

"So does Gilles Meloche. Asking Gilles about when Alexei was here, Eric Meloche was actually on the team and I think Eric still talks about how Alexei took care of the younger guys all the time and was a great teammate. So that's his MO throughout his career. I don't have any issue character-wise with Alexei Kovalev."

People in Pittsburgh trust and basically worship Lemieux's opinion, so with that one statement, any concerns about Kovalev's attitude likely went right out the window. 

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Ottawa Senators Trade Alex Kovalev To Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued replenishing their injured roster today, trading a late-round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators for Alex Kovalev. The former Penguin joins a team that's just six points out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference despite injuries to their two best players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin

It's the second big trade for a forward this week completed by Ray Shero, who traded defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas for James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen. Kovalev is older now, sure, and he's not the same player that played four seasons with the Pens in the early 2000s. 

Still, Kovalev will add a nice extra layer of offense to the depleted Penguins attack. He has his faults and he's not the most defensively responsible player in the world, but considering they only had to give up a seventh round pick to get him, people in Pittsburgh won't be complaining.

Kovalev is a free agent at the end of the current season. 

As for the Senators, at least they get something in exchange for the guy who probably wasn't going to be back in town beyond this season. They replace Kovalev in part by claiming Marek Svatos off waivers, which also allows the team to become less an AHL club, more an NHL club again. And the rebuild continues. 

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