The exodus in the nation's capital continues as the Ottawa Senators shipped veteran forward Alex Kovalev to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday for a conditional seventh-round pick.
If Pittsburgh wins the first round of the playoffs and Kovalev plays in at least fifty percent of the games, the pick becomes a sixth-round selection.
Kovalev told reporters that he was looking forward to the move and a chance to compete in the post-season once again.
"I'm excited to go to Pittsburgh and play in the playoffs again," said Kovalev. It's been awhile."
It has been a disappointing tenure for Kovalev in Ottawa after signing a two-year, $10 million deal with the team as a free agent in 2009; however the enigmatic Russian sniper has turned up his game as of late. He has 14 goals and 13 assists in 54 games this season. He waived his the 'no-trade' clause in his contract in order to get the deal with the Penguins done.
He said his biggest regret was being unable to help turn things around in Ottawa.
"It's too bad I couldn't show myself as a good player in Ottawa, but I still had a great time here surrounded by a good organization and a great group of guys here."
While Senators general manager Bryan Murray admitted that three teams had shown interest in Kovalev, the interest of the two teams other than the Penguins had waned recently, however he feels that Kovalev will be a good fit in Pittsburgh.
"Alex is a veteran player that needs to be important," said Murray. "He's been an important player and I think if you don't give him that importance, as Dany Heatley showed, it's probably easier to not play to your level."
Earlier in the season Kovalev went public with his general unhappiness in Ottawa and openly complained about his role under head coach Cory Clouston who demoted Kovalev to the fourth line for a period of time. Although Murray could not define exactly why Kovalev never quite seemed comfortable in Ottawa, but admitted that his relationship with Clouston may have been a factor.
"I don't know if it was him and Cory only or the role that he was given here. As a coach you have to define each and every player and where they fit. For Alex it didn't seem to work, so he moves."
While Kovalev had previously stated he had issue with some of Clouston's decisions, Murray said that he did not take any parting shots on the way out in his exit meeting.
"He didn't say anything about Cory or about anybody. He just said he was sorry it didn't work better here."
An Olympic gold medalist with Russia in 1992, Kovalev has scored over 400 goals and recorded over 1000 points in his 18-year NHL career.
Despite signs of slowing down, Kovalev should be able to help the injury plagued Penguins down the stretch and in the playoffs. The veteran has a bevy of playoff experience and was a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. This will be his second stint in Pittsburgh after spending five seasons there earlier in his career.
While he is returning to a team that he had previously played with, he admits to not being too familiar with the Pens personnel.
"The team has changed a lot since I've been there," said Kovalev. "(Evgeni) Malkin is the only guy I've played with on the National team but he's injured."
Still he said being involved again with a franchise run by Mario Lemieux made Pittsburgh a very attractive destination for him.
"I know Mario really well and he does what it takes to put his team in the right direction."
Meanwhile the Senators continue to clear the deck and build for the future. In the past month they have shipped veterans Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu and Brian Eliott out of town while receiving several draft picks but little in the way of actual players other than goalie Craig Anderson. The trade comes on the same day that the Senators claimed forward Marek Svatos off of waivers from the Nashville Predators. The 28-year old has one goal and two assists in nine games this season.
The Penguins have been forced to look outside the organization for offense after losing Evgeni Malkin for the season with ACL surgery and Sidney Crosby still on the sidelines dealing with concussion issues.
Kovalev is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.