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.
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.
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