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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    Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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    Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

    (Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

    You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

    Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

    Letang told his side of the story:

    The Capitals disagree:

    While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

    No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

    Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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    If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

    The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

    (Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

    Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

    A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

    First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

    Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

    Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

    In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

    This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

    Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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    It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

    (You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

    There are a few things we do know already.

    For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

    Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

    In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

    There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

    Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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    Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

    ***

    As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

    Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

    Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

    Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

    Things could get ugly in Game 3:

    One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

    Also, lateness of the check:

    The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

    Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

    Read reactions to the check here.