Chuck Kobasew has had three 20+ goal seasons in the NHL, in a four year stretch from 2005-06 to 2008-09. Since then he spent two seasons in Minnesota (18 goals in 105 games) and two more in Colorado (12 goals in 95 games). With his production that down, he didn't find any takes in the free agent market this summer, as NHL teams weren't exactly lining up for a 31 year old smallish winger with four seasons of unimpressive offensive numbers. Kobasew eventually accepted a tryout offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins and came to camp.
And then, a funny thing has happened in the last two weeks. Kobasew started standing out. He scored two goals in a preseason game against Columbus on September 15th, earning him more games and time on a line with Sidney Crosby in another game. And, now, take a look at the lines from Penguins first practice unit today:
#Pens lines at practice: Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis; Jokinen-Malkin-Neal; Kobasew-Sutter-Bennet; Glass-Jeffrey-Adams— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 24, 2013
That looks mighty close to what could be an opening night lineup, and Chuck Kobasew finds himself on the third line with Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter.
It's important to note that Matt D'Agostini (also a former NHL 20 goal scorer) does not appear here, perhaps because he's been hobbled with a lower body injury of the day-to-day sorts. Even still, D'Agostini hasn't flashed like Kobasew. He hasn't stood out in games or scrimmages, hasn't earned bigger roles, hasn't done much of anything really. But D'Agostini does have a one-way NHL contract for $550,000. Pittsburgh would have to pay him that if he goes to the minor leagues (assuming another team doesn't pluck him from waivers).
Will the Pens want to eat that cost? Could a team close to the cap consider bringing in another guy in Kobasew? These are yet unaswered questions, but questions being driven by Kobasew's solid camp performance. Adam Hall got his career back on track when he won a contract with the Pens on a tryout in 2007, and for Chuck Kobasew, history just might be repeating itself.
It's not a done deal yet, and training camp situations are often very fluid, but there's no doubt Kobasew is pushing some unexpected questions and options for the Penguins. As training camp draws to it's final week, we'll soon learn how Ray Shero and the Pens want to answer them.