New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has acquired forwards Alexei Kovalev and Dan LaCouture, along with defensemen Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson from the Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for Rico Fata, Mikael Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard and Richard Lintner.
Kovalev, 29, ranked second on the Penguins and currently ranks fourth in the NHL with 64 points, registering 27 goals and 37 assists, in 54 matches this season. He is also tied for ninth in the NHL in goals (27) and eighth in assists (37). Kovalev made his second career appearance in the NHL All-Star Game, his first as a starter, on February 2 in Sunrise, Florida.
A veteran of 11 NHL seasons with the Rangers and Penguins, Kovalev has appeared in 747 career NHL games, registering 268 goals and 354 assists for 622 points, along with 816 penalty minutes. He has appeared in 83 career playoff games, registering 27 goals and 40 assists for 67 points, along with 82 penalty minutes. Kovalev was traded to Pittsburgh, along with Harry York, from New York in exchange for Petr Nedved, Chris Tamer and Sean Pronger.
In 402 career matches with New York from 1992-1998, Kovalev registered 119 goals and 156 assists for 275 points, along with 459 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 44 career post-season contests, tallying 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points, along with 42 penalty minutes and was a key member of the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship team. He was one of the first Russian-born players to have his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup. In 23 playoff games, Kovalev registered nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points, along with 18 penalty minutes. His 21 points ranked third on the team, while his nine goals and 12 assists ranked fourth.
As a member of the Penguins, Kovalev appeared in 345 contests, registering 149 goals and 198 assists for 347 points, along with 357 penalty minutes. He also skated in 39 post-season games, registering 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points, along with 40 penalty minutes, helping Pittsburgh reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. Last season, he led the team in goals, assists and points, tallying 32 goals and 44 assists for 76 points in 67 matches, along with 80 penalty minutes. He established new single-season career-highs in all major offensive categories in 2000-01, registering 44 goals and 51 assists for 95 points. He was also selected to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2000-2001, registering a goal and an assist in the match.
The 6-1, 220-pound right wing has skated in numerous international tournaments, including a pair of Winter Olympic appearances. In 1992 he helped the Unified Team capture the gold medal in Albertville, France. He also garnered a bronze medal for Russia at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah, registering three goals and one assist for four points in six games. He appeared in five matches for Russia at the 1996 World Cup and has twice skated in the IIHF World Hockey Championships (1992, 1998). Kovalev also won two silver medals with the Soviet team at the European Junior Championships in 1990 and 1991 and captured a gold medal at the 1992 World Junior Championships as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), while being named to the tournament's All-Star team. The Togliatti, Russia native was originally the Rangers' first round choice, 15th overall, in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
Laukkanen, 32, has appeared in 17 matches this season with Pittsburgh, registering one goal and six assists for seven points, along with eight penalty minutes. He skated in his 400th NHL match on November 27 vs. Philadelphia and is currently sidelined due to a hip injury. In 405 career matches with the Penguins, Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators, he has registered 21 goals and 99 assists for 120 points, along with 335 penalty minutes. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, he has appeared in 57 career contests, registering seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, along with 44 penalty minutes. He has spent over two seasons with the Penguins after being acquired from Ottawa, along with Ron Tugnutt, on March 14, 2000, in exchange for Tom Barrasso. He was originally Quebec's eighth choice, 156th overall, in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
LaCouture, 25, has skated in 44 games this season, registering two goals and two assists, along with 72 penalty minutes. He ranks second on the team with 72 penalty minutes. In 182 career matches with the Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, he has registered 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points, along with 196 penalty minutes. He was acquired by Pittsburgh from Edmonton on March 13, 2001, in exchange for Sven Butenschon and was originally the New York Islanders' second choice, 29th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
Wilson, 27, has spent this season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL), skating in 45 games and registering four goals and five assists for nine points, along with 89 penalty minutes. In 335 career NHL matches with the Penguins, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, he has registered 16 goals and 41 assists for 57 points, along with 264 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 29 post-season matches. He was signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh on July 5, 2001 and was originally drafted as the Vancouver Canucks' first round choice, 20th overall, in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.