(Courtesy of The Hockey News)
It did not take long for the NHL’s premier power play guru to find a new home.
Only 14 minutes after the free agency period opened at noon EST, Sergei Gonchar had inked a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Ottawa Senators. Eager to improve on a 21st ranked power play from last season, the Senators had made the 36-year-old Russian their unquestioned No. 1 priority in free agency.
Gonchar and agent J.P. Barry had been discussing terms of a contract with his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins for many months, but could never agree. The Penguins and Ray Shero didn’t want to give the veteran rearguard anything more than a two-year contract while the Gonchar camp was looking for three or more. Ultimately, neither side was willing to compromise.
Gonchar had been a major point producer from the blue line during his five year stay in the Steel City, scoring 50 or more points four times while averaging 25 minutes a game. His peak came in 2009 when he won the Stanley Cup against the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators however, are no new faces for Gonchar. During his time as a Penguin, the two teams met up in the playoffs on three different occasions, most recently in 2010 where the 4th-seeded Penguins eliminated Ottawa in six games.
The $5.5 million per year that he will be earning was $500,000 more than his annual salary with Pittsburgh. While there are few better players in the league to call if you want an improved power play, his age has been catching up with him over the last few seasons. He has only played 87 regular season games since the beginning of the 2008-09 season and his defensive performance has not been nearly as sharp as it used to be. He will still bring leadership and strong offensive play to the Senators and while teams often overpay for the things they want most, it remains to be seen how valuable he will be to Ottawa with health and defensive questions.