To be honest, when I heard the news that the Penguins traded for Dan Hamhuis’ negotiating rights, I figured that signaled the end of Sergei Gonchar’s days in Pittsburgh. Apparently that might not be the case, though, as the team hopes to sign both. Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the story.
It’s a vision the Penguins like. A lot. They will find out soon if they can bring it to life.
They see a defense that includes Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski as their top five. They are willing to sacrifice bringing in a high-profile winger or two this offseason to turn it into reality.
“That would be the way we would go with our team, with the strength on defense,” general manager Ray Shero said Saturday. “We would go with the guys we have up front and give some needed opportunity to some younger players.”
At first I thought that was little more than “in an ideal world” talk, but after glancing at the Penguins salary cap situation at CapGeek, they might actually be able to swing it. They have most of the team set already (12 forwards if you count Eric Tangradi, four defensemen and two goalies) and about $11.25 million in cap space. My guess is that would be enough to lock the two blueliners down, plus a few minimum salary reserves.
On the bright side, the Penguins would boast one of of the best defensive units in the East. They’d have a nice mixture of defense-first guys (Hamhuis, Brooks Orpik) and offensive-leaning types (Gonchar, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski). That’s as versatile as any group in the league.
The negative end, though, is that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would have to slum it with weak wingers for yet another season. Then again, the free agent crop isn’t exactly rich this year, so maybe that is a minor quibble.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the Penguins will end up with either Gonchar or Hamhuis. They’re set to hit the free agent market if Pittsburgh fails to sign them by Thursday and it’s quite possible that they’re the top two defensemen available.
What do you think? Should the Penguins sacrifice forward depth to load up their defense? If they only could sign one, should it be Gonchar or Hamhuis? Or should they let them both go? Share your thoughts in the comments.