Dallas makes big investment in Gonchar


After the Dallas Stars signed aging defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a two-year, $10 million contract, the team’s commentary revolved around his work as a mentor and his value as a power play quarterback.

Let’s take a look at the ways that the 39-year-old might impact the Stars.

Under his wing

Indeed, Gonchar has received plenty of credit for being a mentor to younger players, particularly Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. It doesn’t hurt that Erik Karlsson blossomed into the most dangerous offensive defenseman in the NHL during Gonchar’s stay in Ottawa, either.

One would assume that the veteran blueliner might best influence the Stars’ young defensive corps, although the team also expressed hopes that he’ll rub off on first-rounder Valeri Nichushkin like he did with Malkin.

Easing the burden

Still, the Stars would be paying quite the premium if Gonchar’s value rests solely on imparting words of wisdom.

Gonchar had an impressive offensive season in 2013, scoring 27 points in 45 regular season games and six in 10 postseason contests. Only Kyle Turris’ 29 points bested Gonchar’s contribution during the regular season, and Turris played in three more games.

By supplying potentially high-end offense, Gonchar might make life easier for the Stars’ previous go-to PP guy Alex Goligoski. That might not alter Goligoski’s status as “the guy who was traded for James Neal,” but perhaps a more appropriate role could benefit the struggling blueliner.

The risks

It would be foolish to ignore the downsides of the move.

Gonchar is 39, so his cap hit stays on the books even if he retires. Sure, it’s only a two-year deal, but such free agent signings can sour quickly.

There’s also little doubt that the Russian defenseman’s greatest strengths come on offense, so the Stars need to be realistic about the role they expect him to play.


Overall, it’s an interesting gamble by Dallas’ new management team.

Let’s not forget that the Stars really haven’t been the same since they last employed a defenseman named Sergei, either.

More Dallas Stars day at PHT

Defense shows promise

Tyler Seguin is the wildcard

Center of change

Leaning on Lehtonen

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.