Pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Sergei Gonchar stated Monday at the Senators’ exit meetings and media availability that the 39 year old is looking to sign a 2 year contract in the off-season.
While he was a key player for the Senators on the blue line, especially in the absence of Erik Karlsson, is it worth the gamble to ink him to a 2 year deal to keep him in Ottawa?
Gonchar is still a top-4 defenseman at the moment, but he is 39. A two year deal would put him at 41 when it expires. Looking at the Senators’ depth chart as well as the crop of free agents, it might be worth the risk, as long as the price per year is less than the $5.5M cap he he carried for the last 3 years.
The Senators have an abundance of the “shut-down”, physical type 5/6/7 defensemen with Eric Gryba, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Phillips etc. They don’t have the top 4 presence on the way, since future top 4 Cody Ceci will need at least a year in the minors to polish his game.
On the market, they primary offensive puck-moving, power play type defensemen is pretty slim pickings. Mark Streit, Ryan Whitney and Marek Zidlicky are the primary players available. Streit and Zidlicky are both 36 and Whtney couldn’t be an everyday player in Edmonton. There are plenty of other names, but not with the ability or track record of the veteran Gonchar. You saw what happened with the Mike Lundin experiment this season when the Senators went that route. Didn’t turn out so well.
The third option would be to wait for the trade market to open up, and scavange a solid puck-mover from one of the many teams that will have to dump salary to get below the cap. This is always a risky game of chicken that may or may not turn out.
So, put your Bryan Murray hat on…