Negotiations heat up between Gonchar, Penguins


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for gonchar.jpgMy guess – at least during the playoffs – was that Sergei Gonchar played his last game for the Pittsburgh Penguins when the team lost to Montreal in Game 7 of the second round. The chances of that being the case are still fairly high, but Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the negotiations are heating up a bit.

He is seeking a multi-year deal, and despite publicly stating his desire to remain with the Penguins, Gonchar has not expressed a willingness to take a significant salary reduction — if any at all.

Reaching a resolution with Gonchar is the club’s top offseason priority. He is one of eight players eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. Gonchar is likely to be among the most attractive defensemen among a free-agent class considered strongest on the blue line.

Despite having two solid offensive defensemen in Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, the Penguins powerplay would suffer a serious blow without Gonchar’s impressive point presence.

He logged big minutes in his time with the team, averaging no less than 24 minutes per game and peaking with an impressive 26:34 average TOI during the 2006-07 season. Gonchar produced an elite-offensive half-decade; few blueliners can match his 259 points in 322 regular season games.

I have to admit, I was a little unhappy when the Penguins originally signed the Russian D-man after the lockout (my hope was the team could snag Scott Niedermayer). Clearly, I was wrong about Gonchar, though.

The question, however, is how much longer he can pull it off for. He’s already 36-years-old, so if the Penguins lock him up for a long time they’ll have to deal with the fallout of a 35+ contract. The team has just under $11 million in cap space according to (assuming the cap goes up), so it’s not impossible to think that the team will retain their crucial veteran defenseman.

It might not be impossible, but would it be smart? That’s a tough call, especially since signing Gonchar would force the Penguins to remain in a familiar place: very, very close to the salary cap ceiling.

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

Torres apologizes to Silfverberg and Sharks


A statement from Raffi Torres:

“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”

A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:

“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”

Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.