Silver Nuggets: Trading Sergei Gonchar

OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 23: Sergei Gonchar #55 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his first period goal with teammates in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Place on April 23, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

It's an old story at this point, but a little over a week ago, Ken Warren explored questions about the Ottawa Senators blue line, notably what to do about Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar.

At this point, it looks like Kuba's likely on his way out: Reports (linked to in the after the jump) seem to indicate that although the Senators wouldn't mind keeping the 35-year-old in the fold, they'd want him to take a pay cut to around the $3M mark on a multi-year deal; on the free market, it's highly likely Kuba's salary could approach $4M per season on a retirement contract. With Ottawa likely unwilling to bite at that number, Kuba seems poised to move on.

That brings us to Gonchar, who's 38 years old and likely already on his retirement contract. As Joe Yerdon pointed out, Gonchar is one of just three Sens d-men under contract right now--the others are Chris Phillips and Jared Cowen--and is owed $5.5M this season, an amount that isn't in line with his on-ice performance or production. So the theory (read: unsourced speculation) is that the Senators might be interested in trading Gonchar if possible.

There are a few challenges to making such a trade, though. Although rumours have suggested the Detroit Red Wings (looking to fill a hole left by the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart) or New York Islanders (looking to solidify their defence and get up to the cap floor) as potential partners, the return won't likely be high. Will that low return, combined with the payroll savings, be enough to compensate the Sens for the loss of Gonchar's declined but still capable play? It depends on what the Senators can do in free agency.

If Kuba and Matt Gilroy--who, sources tell Bruce Garrioch, will not be re-signed by the Sens--both walk, the Sens are left with Erik Karlsson (who will, by hook or by crook, remain in Ottawa), Gonchar, Phillips, and Cowen on the back-end. I'm pretty sure they'll bring back Matt Carkner for next year, but I'm not convinced that either of Mark Borowiecki or Patrick Wiercioch are ready to step into an NHL lineup and play meaningful minutes next season. Given Murray's history of entering seasons with too many defencemen rather than too few (see: 2010-11 season and 2011-12 season), that leaves at least two openings to be addressed in the off-season by free agency or trade: Ideally, one top-pairing defender to play with Karlsson and one middle-pairing defender to allow Phillips and Gonchar the freedom to focus on role-playing or special-teams minutes. If Gonchar's gone, the Sens need to bring in even more defenders, which won't be easy considering the number of D-men available and the number of teams bidding on them.

I am convinced of one thing: If Bryan Murray is shopping Sergei Gonchar around the league, he won't trade him until after July 1 in order to make sure he's not left in a tough spot through free agency.

Senators headlines:

  • According to Pierre LeBrun, Sens GM Bryan Murray has made contact with Filip Kuba about a possible contract extension--he's at least keeping the door open. (ESPN)
  • Nichols looks at Filip Kuba's play this past season and arrives at a conclusion that Karlsson helped Kuba a lot more than the other way around, and Nichols hopes Kuba isn't re-signed unless there are no other options. (The 6th Sens)
  • The Sens profiled Olli Määttä on their site today. I bet he's high on their most-wanted list... (Senators)
  • Some questions heading into the off-season, including whether Daniel Alfredsson will be back and whether Karlsson will win the Norris. (Citizen)
  • Sens prospect and peanut butter jar innovator Darren Kramer is a perseverant kid. Look for him to play in Bingo (or maybe Elmira) next season. (Herald-Tribune)

Other headlines:

  • PPP finally posted their mock draft fifth overall selection: Ryan Murray. (Pension Plan Puppets)
  • The Wild have the seventh pick, and Hockey Wilderness selected Jacob Trouba in the SBN mock draft...
  • ... while Canes Country picked Teuvo Teravainen at seventh.
  • Wait, what the hell, how did I miss news that Tim Thomas is sitting out next season the spend time with his faith, family, and friends? Geez, I leave the country for two weeks, and things just go nuts... (Boston.com)
  • Hilariously, the New Jersey Devils have decided to retain the 29th overall selection in this year's entry draft, rather than forfeiting it as part of the penalty for the Ilya Kovalchuk cap-circumvention fiasco. That means the Devils will have to give up a first-rounder next year or in 2014, despite the miniscule chance that it will be as late as (or later than) 29 overall. (In Lou We Trust)
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