As 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?