Happy Birthday Alexei Kovalev, you're going back to Pittsburgh

One of the long-rumored trades of the 2010-11 season has finally come to fruition as Alex Kovalev(notes) decided to waive his no-trade clause on his 38th birthday for a deal that will make him a Pittsburgh Penguin for the second time in his career.

Senators GM Bryan Murray continues the firesale in Ottawa and will receive a conditional 7th round draft pick in return according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Should the Penguins advance out of the first round and Kovalev plays in half of their opening round games, it'll become a sixth.

There's long been an infatuation with Kovalev by Penguins fans who remember his three-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh in the late 1990s/early 2000s. But that was almost a decade ago and apart from a 35-goal, 84-point season in Montreal in 2007-08, the consistent production hasn't been there for Kovalev. He's been called "lazy", "engimatic" and at times it looked like he just didn't care while he was in Ottawa. But given the fact Kovalev's NTC made him in control of his destiny, is he now ready to be motivated in Pittsburgh?

From Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review this morning before the deal:

The good news is that Kovalev can still play. He can still score. He has half as many goals (six) in his past 10 games as any Penguins player on the ice against San Jose - besides newcomer James Neal(notes) - had for the entire season.

Kovalev has nine points in 10 games since the All-Star break. He is taking advantage of increased ice time created by an injury to Daniel Alfredsson(notes), trades, and, perhaps, the Senators' desire to showcase him and clear his salary (about $1 million the rest of the season).

Same old Kovy means Kovalev still has those same soft hands and that same cannon shot. It means he can still get around the ice, too, despite surgery to repair a torn ACL last spring. Those who watch him nightly will tell you he has looked progressively more fluid as the season has progressed.

What do the Penguins have to lose? A conditional draft pick? A Bill Guerin(notes)-type return sounds right, a pick based on how far the Penguins advance.

A Bill Guerin-type return would make this low risk / potential high reward deal even better. The Penguins are in need of scoring with 11 regulars out of the lineup (defenseman Brooks Orpik(notes) is now the latest and will miss the next 4-6 weeks). In their previous 12 games, Pittsburgh has put up 25 goals and with Evgeni Malkin(notes) done for the season and Sidney Crosby's(notes) return still unknown at the moment, Penguins GM Ray Shero has pulled the trigger on two deals this week that he hopes can solve that problem this season.

The production has diminished over the last three seasons and as Kovalev is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer, the hope in Pittsburgh now is that his new digs will rejuvenate him for the next few months before he rides off into the sunset ... or to the KHL.

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