Sergei Gonchar could help Caps, Devils, others in 10-11

gonchar.jpgAs Brandon discussed earlier, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ decision to extend Kris Letang’s contract likely pushes out Sergei Gonchar barring a considerable pay decrease. When you take into account the fact that Gonchar has earned his $5 million contract for the most part (and often has been arguably worth quite a bit more), I’d say it’s a near-certainty that he’ll be playing somewhere else.

I guess we’ll find out in July, though. In the mean time, I thought it might be fun to look at a few teams who would make sense for Gonchar. I might have missed a few, so feel free to tell me how/if I’m wrong.

Buffalo

2010-11 cap space at this moment (all figures taken from CapGeek.com).: $12.6 million

Major re-signs: None, really.

Case for Gonchar: The Sabres rarely attract big stars, but Gonchar might be a great fit for the scrappy team. While the Russian defenseman has progressed nicely when it comes to playing in his own end, his calling card is his offensive skills. He’s fifth in the league in powerplay points this season among defensemen even though he’s only played in 57 games. With Ryan Miller wrapped up long-term and the rest of their core locked up to nice deals (aside from Thomas Vanek’s huge contract of course), they could probably justify giving the aging D-man a longer contract than most could cough up.

Columbus

2010-11 cap room: $9.68 million

Major re-signs: None

Case for Gonchar: OK, the Blue Jackets are a mess right now, no doubt. They might have to give him a big contract to lure him to Columbus, but he certainly fits a serious need as the franchise lacks much in offensive defensemen beyond the developing Kris Russell. Then again, they did make the playoffs last year so maybe they can rebound?

Nashville

2010-11 cap room: $16.3 million

Major re-signs:Patric Hornqvist, Dan Hamhuis, Dan Ellis?

Case for Gonchar: They have plenty of space and their PP is horrible. I imagine a Weber-Gonchar point combo could help that quite a bit.

More possibilities after the jump, including one that would result in the scariest powerplay in decades.


Dallas

2010-11 cap room: $20 million

Major re-signs: Goalies, James Neal, generally have a lot to sort out.

Case for Gonchar: The Stars are hurting for a No. 1 defenseman. While Gonchar won’t heal all their wounds, he certainly would be a great catalyst for the league’s PP points leader Brad Richards and the Stars’ other great forwards.

New Jersey

2010-11 cap room: $15.9 million

Major re-signs: Ilya Kovalchuk? Paul Martin

Case for Gonchar: With all due respect to the sturdy Martin, the Devils have seen a staggering post-lockout exodus of great defensemen. Gonchar could be a great addition to what, admittedly, would be an expensive blueline if they also brought back Martin. Then again, such speculation is moot if they sign Kovalchuk.

Washington

2010-11 cap room: $19.3 million

Major re-signs: Nicklas Backstrom, Dare I ask: Jose Theodore?

Case for Gonchar: The Capitals could have a nice amount of cap space if they go cheap in net (which, really, might be smart). Now, it’s not like their ridiculous PP needs that much help, but could you imagine a Green-Gonchar-Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin/Laich man advantage? That’s just terrifying.

Where do you think Gonchar will end up? Am I underestimating his devotion to the Penguins?

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    McDavid makes Keith, Blackhawks look helpless with absurd assist (Video)

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    Connor McDavid‘s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

    To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

    If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

    You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

    If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    First pick, first goal: Nico Hischier also flirting with first hat trick

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    One remarkable thing about the New Jersey Devils’ hot start is that Nico Hischier, the top pick of this past draft, had yet to score his first NHL goal.

    Of course, there’s a danger to looking at only goals. After all, the 18-year-old had four assists in six games, with three coming in his last two contests. The Devils were justified in all of those comments about it being just a matter of time …

    … As it turns out, it didn’t take Hischier much time against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

    Not only did the Swiss scorer find the net for his first goal by roofing a nice setup from Taylor Hall and Drew Stafford.

    He also showed some savvy in scoring his second goal less than two minutes later.

    Hischier now has two periods and change to collect his first-ever hat trick in that same game.

    A quick look at how he’s been doing, overall

    Even when other Devils stole some of his thunder in what might have been an opening statement of a first win for New Jersey, Hischier showed some dynamic moves.

    Nice.

    As NJ.com’s Chris Ryan reported, Devils coach John Hynes was left raving about Hischier after he collected two assists in the Devils’ shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this week.

    “He was very good in all aspects,” John Hynes said on Wednesday. “Defensively he was excellent, going back to the video this morning, some of the chances he had that he didn’t score on were excellent. When you look at the chances he created, the assists he had, the assist on the game-tying goal, he set up (Taylor Hall) very well in the offensive zone. I’d say that was his most complete game to date.”

    Hischier began the season being used sparingly, but he logged more legitimate top-six minutes the past couple games. He sure seems like a quick study so far. Hischier’s getting some protected zone starts and other situations, but there’s also sense that Hynes is going to take off the training wheels very quickly.

    Thursday seems like the reward, or the flashing light, for all that good early work. This post will be updated as we wait to see if Hischier can manage that hat trick.

    ***

    Look, it’s very, very early.

    All we can judge Hischier and the Devils on, right now, is how they’ve played so far … and with each game, this team looks more and more legit. And so does their prized prospect.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruised Bruins get Bergeron and Backes back, at least

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    On paper, a game against old chums the Vancouver Canucks would probably be an assumed W for the Boston Bruins.

    It hasn’t been safe to assume much during an up-and-down start so far, and that goes straight down to injuries, as Bruins news seems to rotate with the bad and the good.

    In the case of Thursday, the good and the bad seem to come in hour rotations rather than days. Earlier, the unfortunate news came: Tuukka Rask was diagnosed with a concussion, adding to the rough news about Ryan Spooner.

    If Anton Khudobin struggles and the Bruins need to outscore their problems, at least they’re getting reinforcements in that regard, as both David Backes and Patrice Bergeron are back in action.

    One would expect Bergeron to resume much of his puck-mastery tonight, or at least soon, even if he might take a while to improve after a 2016-17 season he wasn’t totally pleased with.

    (Bergeron was probably in the minority there, what with winning the Selke Trophy and his line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak dominating opponents.)

    Backes might be most interesting to watch. He reportedly lost 10 lbs. because of diverticulitis, so you wonder if he’ll be limited for a while. He’s trying to bounce back from 2016-17 in a more objective way than Bergeron, after all.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruins turn to Khudobin after Rask diagnosed with concussion

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    A bad start to the season officially got worse on Thursday as the Boston Bruins announced that Tuukka Rask has been diagnosed with a concussion.

    The 30-year-old netminder collided with Anders Bjork during practice on Wednesday and needed to be helped off the ice. Anton Khudobin will start Thursday night against the Canucks and Zane MacIntyre will serve as his backup.

    The Bruins are 2-3-0 on the season with a minus-4 goal differential. Rask has struggled as well with an ugly .887 even strength save percentage in four starts. With four games over the next 11 days, the hope is that either Khudobin or MacIntyre can right the ship as Rask heals.

    “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year,” said Khudobin via NBC Sports Boston. “My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

    As the Bruins get David Backes and possibly Patrice Bergeron back, they’ve watched as Rask and Ryan Spooner (4-6 weeks) leave the lineup with injury. Having a roster in flux while you’re trying to find some consistency will be a tough ask for head coach Bruce Cassidy and his players.

    The 31-year-old Khudobin has played well in two appearances this season, stopping 32 of 33 shots faced and posting a .970 ESSV%.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.