Gonchar? Gonchar. Pens Reportedly in on Former Defenseman

Richard Wolowicz

The Penguins are said to be after former defenseman Sergei Gonchar if and when the 2012 season commences.

Well, then.

Bruce Garrioch wrote in the Calgary Sun last Saturday that the Penguins are apparently very interested in bringing veteran blue liner Sergei Gonchar back to Pittsburgh.

The veteran defenceman, going into the final year of a contract paying him $5.5 million per season, will be targeted for a trade by the Pittsburgh Penguins once a collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Whether Gonchar's former team waits until whatever date is set for the trade deadline or makes a pitch before the season begins isn't known, but league sources say Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero has interest in bringing back the 38-year-old.

Gonchar's been on the heart of some Penguins fans since departing after the 2010 season. He got a heartfelt mention in Evgeni Malkin's wonderful Hart Trophy speech last summer, and has been playing well with Malkin and Magnitogorsk in the KHL.

Gonchar's presence on the blue line could restore some leadership to a unit that was torched last offseason. His chemistry with Malkin is well-known, and he has been well-liked in every dressing room he's been a part of.

However, what?

It's hard to see the Penguins going far out of their way to acquire a 38-year-old defenseman with at least seven NHL-ready defensemen already on the roster and Simon Despres hot on their trail. The first power play unit is already stacked (better than 30 percent in last year's playoffs) and the team has its puck-moving defender in Kris Letang.

That's not to suggest Gonchar wouldn't bring positives to the team. Watching he and Malkin share pucks on a power play would be sublime, and last year's meltdown and temporary captaincy meetings showed that the Penguins still aren't beyond the need for a veteran voice in the locker room.

So, who are the Penguins getting? The Gonchar who can turn the power play into a 30-percenter? Or the Gonchar who got turnstiled in the softest-looking backcheck in playoff history?


In a lockout-shortened season, the move seems to make sense. Gonchar won't be counted on for huge minutes and would play the specialist-mentor role that has been vacated since Bill Guerin last played.

However, Gonchar has already played 33 games with Magnitogorsk this year and won't be as fresh as some returning NHL players. He's an age risk at 38, and he and Paul Martin could share campfire stories about what Dan Bylsma's defensive system did to their careers.

Bringing Gonchar back is a toss-up. But at this point, let's just hope there's a season to provide some depth for the now-hypothetical question.

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