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Gonchar to the Pens – probably not happening...For now

We talked to our Ottawa Senators blog about what their team would be looking for if they were to deal Sergei Gonchar...The news isn't good in the short-term for those Penguin fans that would like to see Gonchar once again wearing the black and Vegas gold in 2013.

Just too good not to use- Gonchar decks his ex-teammate and super-pest Jarrko Ruutu
Just too good not to use- Gonchar decks his ex-teammate and super-pest Jarrko Ruutu
Justin K. Aller
In lieu of the new CBA, the hockey world is skittering back to life. Fans have looked at the Pittsburgh Penguins depth chart and see a big hole in the top 4. Former Pens defenseman Sergei Gonchar, he of the epic bromance with Pens star center Evgeni Malkin, is rumored to possibly be available, with the Penguins showing interest.

The new agreement will have the cap maximum at about $70 million this year, and drop it to $64 million for next season. The Penguins current sit at about $60 million, give or take. Gonchar has one year left at $5.5 million, so he conceivably makes a great fit for Pittsburgh to acquire and be under the cap for this season and next.

And hey- Sergei Gonchar was the #1 defensemen on the Pens 2009 Stanley Cup winning team. He is (or was) a really great player and can still help command the power play. No matter what happened, you’d have to imagine re-acquiring Kovalev would be more successful than the Alex Kovalev 2011 experiment. (Speaking of- look who got a tryout in Florida).

The issue is going to be prying him out of his current position, with the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators, like all NHL teams, are licking their chops for a shortened 48 game season. It’s going to be a mad sprint, and every team thinks and hopes a good start will push them into the playoffs, which is totally realistic this year. Gonchar, as Silver Sens blogger Peter Raaymakers told me, is penciled in to Ottawa’s second pairing. He’s still a top 4 guy, even though Erik Karlsson has long surpassed him as the team’s top offensive minded defenseman.

Teams that want to make the playoffs don’t usually trade Top 4 defensemen before the season starts unless there’s a really good reason, and Raaymakers suggested that perhaps the Penguins could flip Paul Martin for Gonchar. This would work from Ottawa’s end because they get a younger player and a top 4 player. But therein lies the issue for Ray Shero and the Penguins.

I don’t think a Martin for Gonchar swap is something the Pens front office would be interested in. While it would be helpful to get out from under the last 2.5 seasons of Martin’s $5 million salary cap hit, the league is going to have amnesty buyouts this summer. If Pittsburgh wants to trim Martin, they can do it then for no penalty other than the finances. Swapping Martin for Gonchar almost certainly would be a setback on the ice for the Pens, which was the whole reason in the summer of 2010 Pittsburgh wouldn’t give Gonchar the 3rd year on his contract that he wanted so he left town, where Ottawa did offer that extra year.

Ideally if you wanted to clip Martin, there’s this summer’s upcoming contract buyout amnesty which will allow for that for only the cost of Martin’s contract. The Pens could probably afford that- whether or not they WANTED to is a different matter, most executives don’t like an empty, big wasted expense in any line of business. Trading him outright for Gonchar would probably weaken the Pens defense, since Martin is capable of playing more (and better) during tough even strength and penalty kill minutes that a 38 year old Gonchar just can’t do.

What Raaymakers did suggest- if Ottawa was clearly out of the playoffs by the extended trade deadline date in early April, then all bets are off and of course they would be interested in perhaps dealing Gonchar for a depth defensemen, prospect or draft pick, since his contract would expire anyways. It seems highly unlikely Shero would flip anything of huge value for Gonchar but with Pittsburgh’s glut of players like Ben Lovejoy, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo it could be conceivable they dangle Ottawa’s choice of that caliber player and a draft pick to sweeten the deal.

By and large, it would be sick for Malkin and Gonchar to continue the success they’ve had this season in the KHL with the Penguins, but despite most Pittsburgh fan’s hopes it seems like the matter of making an attractive offer to Ottawa will hinder any chance of this at least early in the season.