When the Pittsburgh Penguins inked journeyman Chuck Kobasew to a professional tryout, not much was expected of him. The team had depth issues at winger with the departures of Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Matt Cooke, and Tyler Kennedy and the young guys were no quite ready. So why not see what the 31-year old Kobasew could do? It's a tryout, not a commitment. After a solid training camp and preseason, the Pens were intrigued by Chuck. Then things got serious when Matt D-Agostini went down with a lower body injury. The Pens signed Kobasew to a one year deal worth $550,000 (the league minimum). The team needed a filler. A cork in a dam.
But after two goals in two games, the Penguins might be stuck with Chuck.
Don't be mislead. Even with three twenty-goal seasons under his belt, scoring is not Kobasew's knack. His game is a cocktail of Cooke's toughness, Kennedy's energy, and Jordan Staal's stark. All of which has been displayed in the tiny sampling of two games. He low-bridged Buffalo's Steve Ott. Has been buzzing on the ice and, of course, has two goals. He's the third liner the Pens need and the kind of player this town loves.
Gritty, gusty guys that hit more then they score have historically been fan favorites in Pittsburgh. Mini-legends like Max Talbot, Gary Roberts, the aforementioned Cooke and Kennedy. Pittsburgh loves their grinders as much as their superstars. Chuck Kobasew fits that bill. In another two weeks, he'll be your huckleberry. Get his shirt now before your friends.
But then again, in another two or three months be might not be a Penguin. The cap space to sign Kobasew was made by placing D'Agostini on IR. He'll return as will Letang and Vokoun. Then the salary cap becomes a problem again and that $550,000 Kobasew's making will put the Pens even more over the limit. Trade bait defenseman Matt Niskana has played like a guy knowing he's going to get traded and that makes it tough to trade him (you want to keep guys playing that well). The best case scenario for Kobasew is a lengthy recovery from Tomas Vokoun. Possibly even his retirement.
No one's going to ask the genie for that wish. So this story of a working class town falling in love with a NHL grinder (. . . again . . .) has a little mystery to it. How are the Penguins going to keep Kobasew when these regulars come back? Will the team keep him at all? Who knows.
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