The Pittsburgh Penguins signed 41 year old Sergei Gonchar to a PTO (professional try out) contract, raising eyebrows around the fan-base. The team has mentioned wanting to play the younger defensemen, and they let Gonchar go 5 years ago because he was too old. Now, he's not?
So we decided to dig into Gonchar's performance recently by the SB Nation blogs that have seen him play. We looked at results from the past 2 seasons.
2013-14 Dallas year review
Defending Big D, our Stars blog, had the following analysis of Gonchar in what was a 2 goal, 22 assist season in 76 games.
The Good: After bouncing around a bit with various defensive partner pairings, Gonchar found a good role as a third pairing / second power play guy. He partnered well with Jordie Benn and Kevin Connauton at various times throughout the season. His biggest contribution may have been off the ice, however. In a season spent in North America amid a new culture and language, Gonchar helped rookie phenom Valeri Nichushkin transition to the NHL level.
The Bad: It definitely wasn't the season most were expecting Gonchar to have. When he was signed, the thought was that he'd be able to help a middling power play coming off a decent few seasons in Ottawa. Unfortunately, he never clicked in that capacity consistently enough to fill that role for the salary he was paid. His brief tenure partnered with Alex Goligoski was a defensive disaster for both guys involved, and he eventually became the third pairing guy as the season progressed.
Lindy Ruff also tended to shelter Gonchar, preferring to start him in the offensive zone -- away from their own net -- as much as possible. His offensive zone start percentage was one of the highest among the Stars blueliners, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
Bottom Line: It wasn't what everyone was hoping for, but it also wasn't as bad as many made his season out to be. Did he meet expectations? Probably not. But he wasn't the worst on the team -- his salary cap hit tends to taint the season he had on the third pairing.
In the fan vote, a whopping 84% of respondents graded Gonchar a "D" or an "F" for his season, with just 2% thinking he was in the "A" or "B' range.
Suffice to say, not a good age 39 season in Dallas that year.
2014-15 Traded to Montreal
With one year remaining on his contract, Gonchar came back to Dallas but was quickly traded to Montreal in November, where early on the trade had some fairly decent results for the Canadiens.
Our Montreal blog, Habs Eyes on the Prize, gave Gonchar a "B-" for a mid-season grade in January 2015, saying,
GP G A PPP S% TOI/GP Corsi Rel OZFO% DZFO% FF% PDO FF/60 FA/60 Sergei Gonchar 24 1 8 1 3.6 19:08 -1.9 29.2 33.0 48.7 104.2 37.35 39.35
He hasn't provided much help in the powerplay department, but considering he was acquired for Travis Moen, Gonchar's performance so far has been quite adequate. The narrative is that he's helping Beaulieu, but the numbers seem to indicate it's the other way around. B-
That PDO (A measure of luck) was sky high and did even out over the course of the season, over the course of which Gonchar was de-emphasized from Montreal. After the Habs acquired Jeff Petry at the deadline and got healthy, Gonchar only played 1 game after March 12, and was sat out for all 12 Montreal playoff games.
In all, Gonchar appeared in 45 games for Montreal, scoring 1 goal and adding 12 assists. As you can see from above, he recorded 0g+4a in his last 21 games as a Canadien. As to be expected, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin announced right after the season that Gonchar wasn't going to be brought back.
Sergei Gonchar is 41 years old and a shell of a player he was when he left Pittsburgh as a 1st pairing defenseman. It's pretty telling that neither Dallas nor Montreal even used Gonchar much on the power-play, an area one would think he could have helped out, if he would have helped out anywhere.
After looking at Gonchar's recent performances in the NHL, it doesn't offer a lot of hope that this could still be a Top 6 player in 2015-16 for the Penguins.