Dallas acquires rights to Gonchar from Ottawa

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Jim Nill has made his first move as general manager of the Dallas Stars, and it’s an interesting one.

On Friday, the Stars announced they acquired the rights to Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Stars GM Jim Nill explained the move to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.

“It was a chance to get a high-character guy who we feel can help our team,” Nill said.

Gonchar, 39, will see his three-year, $16.5 million deal expire on July 5, at which time he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. Nill told Garrioch that the Stars will begin contract negotiations as soon as possible.

Various media outlets have him linked to KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk — reportedly to the tune of $7 million per season — though it now appears Dallas will try to keep him in North America after his stellar 2013 campaign.

Gonchar was a steadying influence for the Senators this year after fellow vet Filip Kuba signed in Florida and Norris winner Erik Karlsson was lost for most of the season with a sliced Achilles.

He finished second on the Sens in scoring, with 27 points, and averaged nearly 24 minutes a night while finishing fifth among all NHL defensemen in assists (24).

Gonchar continued to log heavy minutes for Ottawa in the postseason, and finished tied for second on the team in assists, with six.

The move to bring in Gonchar harkens back to ones made by Nill’s predecessor in Dallas, Joe Nieuwendyk.

Last summer, the Stars went heavy into the veteran free agent pool, signing 40-year-olds Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney.