On Friday, the Dallas Stars announced that they had acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar in exchange for a conditional sixth round pick. The condition: that the 39-year-old, who was reportedly quite far along in talks to join Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL, signed a deal to remain stateside. With that, we braced ourselves to see how the next month of talks would play out.
A day later, the saga is over. According to Mike Heika, less than 24 hours later, the Stars and Sergei Gonchar have reached a deal that will pay the Russian defenceman $10 million over next two years.
If you're wondering how they did it so quickly, you must have missed the part where I said "two years" and "$10 million". That's huge money for Gonchar, 39, whom the Stars believe can be a no. 1 guy and a powerplay quarterback (and considering what he's being paid, he'd damn well better).
It's also a tremendous risk, because there's no getting out from under that contract. At 39 years old, Gonchar's deal is on the books regardless of what happens.
But Jim Nill doesn't seem too concerned with the fact that Gonchar is pushing forty, and after the performances they got out of Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr, not to mention Teemu Selanne in Anaheim or what Gonchar himself did in Ottawa, or Jagr's run to the Cup with Boston, it's tough to blame him. 40 is the new 34.
“Players like this, they’re real pros. That’s why they are playing so long,’’ Nill said. “You look at what he did last season, and he was a top NHL defenseman. I think any organization would want to add a player like that.’’
[...] “We feel he’s in excellent shape,’’ Nill said about Gonchar. “He adds not only skill to the team, but character, too. These are the kinds of players that can really help us become the kind of team we want to become.’’
As Heika points out, there's another reason that Dallas might have gone out of their way to get Gonchar: he played three seasons in Pittsburgh with Alex Goligoski.
Goligoski, who has three years left on a four-year, $18.4 million deal with Dallas, hasn't developed into the stud blueliner the Stars were hoping he'd become when they acquired him for James Neal. In order for this team to have success, they need to turn that around.
If bringing Gonchar back into his life helps him to turn a corner, then this move will have been well worth it.