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Pens Trade Nedved To Rangers

Petr Nedved, so determined not to play again for Pittsburgh that he held out for a year-and-a-half, returned to the New York Rangers in a five-player trade Wednesday that sent Alexei Kovalev to the Penguins.

The Penguins dealt Nedved, defenseman Chris Tamer and center Sean Pronger to the last-place Rangers for Kovalev, a talented but under-performing right wing; center Harry York and future considerations.

"We just never got close to coming to terms with Petr," Penguins general manager Craig Patrick said.

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To finalize the deal with the bankrupt Penguins, the Rangers apparently agreed to pay all or some of Kovalev's $1.5 million salary and part of the $2.33 million in deferred money Pittsburgh owes the Rangers' Kevin Stevens.

The Rangers agreed to the trade only after working out a contract with Nedved, a center who hasn't played in the NHL since the 1997 playoffs. The three-year deal is believed to be worth slightly less than $4 million a season -- or less than Pittsburgh offered last year.

"We talked around and around and around with a number of clubs," Patrick said. "We had a number of different players with a number of different clubs. We couldn't really get the pieces that fit our puzzle until now."

Alexei Kovalev
Alexei Kovalev never quite lived up to lofty expectations in New York. (AP)

The bankrupt Penguins previously wanted as much as $4 million cash in a proposed Nedved for Kovalev trade, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn't let so much money change hands.

The Penguins filed for bankruptcy protection last month and may owe creditors as much as $123 million, or more tha the franchise's value. A French bank recently lent them $20 million to get through the season.

"We are fortunate to add a world class player like Alexei under these difficult circumstances," Patrick said. "We finally feel we received proper value for our asset."

That asset is the 26-year-old Nedved, who sat out the 1997-98 season in a contract dispute and is currently playing for Las Vegas of the International Hockey League this season. He had a 99-point season for Pittsburgh in 1995-96, after he fell out of favor with Rangers star Mark Messier and coach Colin Campbell and was traded to the Penguins.

Kovalev has had similar problems with the Rangers, who felt his production -- 24 goals are his career high -- never matched his talent.

"That's what people were saying about Petr before he got here, too," Patrick said. "I think, knowing his skill level and his maturity level at his point, I think he should be able to blossom well like Petr did."

The Florida Panthers also were bidding for Nedved, who had 170 points in 154 games with Pittsburgh, including 45 goals and 54 assists in 1995-96.

Kovalev, 23, had seven points, including three goals, in 14 games with the Rangers this season after having a team-high 23 goals last season. In 402 career games with the Rangers, he had 119 goals and 156 assists.

Pronger, 25, was acquired in March from Anaheim for the rights to goaltender Patrick Lalime. Tamer, 28, played in a career high 79 games last season, but has since fallen out of favor with coach Kevin Constantine.

York, 24, has his best season with St. Louis in 1996-97 with 32 points in 74 games.

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