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.

Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

Jaromir Jagr
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This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?

Hamburglar (groin) returns, Sens demote O’Connor

Andrew Hammond
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Matt O'Connor‘s time in the Canadian capital was brief, but still noteworthy.

O’Connor, the losing netminder in Sunday’s “Battle of the Backups” against Montreal — Habs No. 2 Mike Condon got the win — has been sent down to AHL Binghamton to pave the way for Andrew Hammond‘s return from a groin injury, per the Sun.

The Hamburglar has been out since the preseason, but his return is earlier than expected.

He was originally supposed to miss the first two weeks, yet now sounds as though he’ll play one of Ottawa’s two games on an upcoming road trip through Columbus and Pittsburgh.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.