The Pens apparently have offered Gonch 2 years at $5M each. Gonch wants 3 years, or more money for 2. Gonch’s agent said they weren’t that far apart. Shero spoke personally to Gonch yesterday (I think the agent has to give permission for that, so this is a good sign).
Hamhuis apparently wants 4 years at $4M each. While that is overpaying him, he will get that on Thursday (7/1) from someone. The good players are overpaid because there are so few of them, the role players underpaid because there are so many of them. What apparently is of some importance to Hamhuis is his role, he wants to play a lot, and the Pens are going to have Blysma talk to him about that (something the Flyers apparently never thought of). Hamhuis is from British Columbia and apparently wanted to sign with Vancouver, but they acquired Keith Ballard and his $4.2M/year, 5 year cap hit from Florida late Friday, so that door probably just closed for Hamhuis.
How can the Pens get some more money to close the deal on Gonch and sign Hamhuis, and how can they possibly add a quality, proven winger with upside as well, to minimize the risk of overly relying on the WBS guys? I have the solution.
Before the trade deadline last year the Pens spoke with Dallas about a trade. Dallas has a plethora of wingers and desperately needs a puck moving defenseman. The Pens specifically wanted James Neal, a big, 22 year old power forward who had 27 goals last year, 24 the year before. Dallas wanted LeTang or Gologski in return, which Shero said was too much, which was true at the time. Neal is now an RFA, and Dallas obviously must have made a qualifying offer for him. However, somebody surely is going to get him signed to a $2-3M offer sheet, which the Pens would not be able to match if they acquired him. But there is a real alternative with Dallas -- Jamie Benn.
I am a relocated Pittsburgher living in Austin and a rabid Pens fan. I hardly ever watch Dallas play since I have Center Ice to watch all Pens games. Dallas started a farm team this year in an Austin suburb, which ended up in the Calder Cup finals against Hershey (the Caps farm team), and I went to 2 of the finals games.
Within 5 minutes of the first game I could see that there was one player on the ice that looked like a man playing with boys -- Jamie Benn. Big, physical, puck skills to get his own shot, wicked slap shot. He didn’t score in either of the 2 games, but he was easily the best player on the ice, so I started to research him. It was no wonder that he looked so good, because much to my surprise he had played the entire season with Dallas, after having unexpectedly made the jump directly from juniors, and he had been sent down to the Texas Stars just for the playoffs (since Dallas didn’t qualify for the NHL playoffs). Must have been able to do that since Benn is only 20.
Benn has 2 years left on a $822K entry level contract (and then becomes a restricted free agent). He’s 20, 6’2”. 207#, had 22 goals last year as a rookie (which I have to assume came on the 3rd line since he wasn‘t expected to make the team), plus 14 with the Texas Stars in the playoffs. Don’t know how this guy was only a 5th round pick, he’s consistently scored on every team he’s been on (his career season goals are 42, 33. 46, and 36 combined last year). I could understand it if he was 5’10”, 170# where you worry if he‘s strong enough for the NHL, but he’s pretty big. He was a member of the Canadian team that won the world junior championship, of the Kelowna Rockets that won the Western Hockey League Championship and Memorial Cup (4 goals in the championship game), and was added to a decent but not great Texas Stars team for the playoffs and led them to the Calder Cup finals.
So, trade Gogo ($1.83M and generally acknowledged as Pens worst defensive defenseman) to the Stars for Benn ($822K) and some draft choices if you can get them. With the $1M saved get Gonch signed for 2 years at $5.5M, and add a $500K defenseman (there’s 36 UFAs who made $550K or less last year). While the Pens may lose some offense from the defensemen, scouting reports on Lovejoy and Hamhuis say they both "move the puck well", and Shero said Hamhuis has untapped offensive potential.
So the lines might look like this:
Lovejoy-Engelland or veteran FA defenseman