When 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar agreed to sign with the Stars — who haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 — some wondered if the deal was about money ($10 million over two years) more than wins.
Not so, says the veteran defenseman.
“Honestly, winning is my No. 1 priority, and I feel this team has good chance to win,” Gonchar told the Dallas Morning News. “I believe in what they are doing and where they want to go.
“At my age, winning is very important.”
While Dallas hasn’t been in the playoffs for five years, they have come close.
This year, a spirited late-season push kept the Stars alive until the final days of the regular season; the year prior, Dallas finished with 42 wins and 89 points, six back of eventual Stanley Cup champs Los Angeles for the No. 8 spot.
Of course, there were other reasons Gonchar’s deal wasn’t seen as one geared to make the Stars an immediate contender.
Dallas GM Jim Nill said part of the reason the Russian rearguard was coming to Dallas was to mentor younger players, and teach them how to be better professionals.
“Part of our game plan is we want to add some veteran presence to our team. We have some good young kids coming, but you need to have veteran presence,” Nill told Stars Inside Edge. “It’s a man’s game and he’s been a great player for many years. He had a great year last year. We know that he looks after himself, he’s a highly conditioned athlete.
“I come from the model in Detroit and we’ve had a lot of success with the older players that look after themselves and bring veteran presence.”
The future of Dallas’ defense includes impressive rookie Brenden Dillon, 2011 first-rounder Jamie Oleksiak and 2010 second-rounder Patrick Nemeth. All are 22 or younger, and Gonchar is ready to teach ’em the ropes — and win hockey games while doing it.
“Everyone is excited, everyone wants to win,” he explained. “I think there are good feelings there.”