June 23, 2010
Last night, hockey fans were treated to another heaping spoonful of bovine excrement as this site claimed UFA defenseman Sergei Gonchar's(notes) negotiating rights had been traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins to the San Jose Sharks for ... well, they didn't get that far.
The information was borrowed by our friends at the Bleacher Report, which is fed into Google News like legitimate news sources, which leads readers to send us this link as if it's factual.
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, it is not factual as of Wednesday morning. Especially with ESPN reporting that Gonchar's agent and Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero will be talking in Los Angeles this week.
Where did the Gonchar rumor start? Russia, by way of the venerable HF Boards. You'll see a citation for TSN at the end of the news bit, in reference to what it felt Gonchar would make as a free agent. This has caused some people to believe the network reported the Gonchar-to-Sharks trade, which it hasn't. Neither has Sport Express in Russia, by the way: It said he "may be exchanged" to the Sharks.
So the Gonchar Trade, for now, joins the Jason Spezza(notes)-to-the-Columbus Blue Jackets trade as the offseason's most well-circulated false reports; even if the Ottawa Citizen continues to report the Spezza deal as a possibility, despite its origins.
Now, does this mean Gonchar's negotiating rights won't be traded? No, nor does it mean that the San Jose Sharks may not be one of his suitors with their blue-line needs and Nabokov money to spend.
In fact, there is a growing sentiment that Gonchar shouldn't be re-signed by the Penguins if the price and the duration of that contract isn't friendly to the team's needs.
Rossi's sour on Gonchar for a few reasons: That the cost would hinder the Penguins' efforts to find a sniper for either Sidney Crosby(notes) or Evgeni Malkin(notes); that Kris Letang(notes) and Alex Goligoski(notes) should be able to fill the void he leaves offensively; and, most importantly, because they may not get the hometown discount that should (in his mind) come naturally for a loyal soldier:
If Gonchar isn't willing to give the Penguins a discount, he simply doesn't fit into the plan. Remember what Shero said in July 2008 after Malkin followed Crosby's lead from the previous year by taking less than market value. "I'm interested in players that want to be here," Shero said.
Brooks Orpik(notes) and Jordan Staal(notes) also took less to stay. Ryan Malone(notes) wasn't willing. That was his choice. Left wing Matt Cooke(notes) made his late Monday and agreed to a three-year deal worth $5.4 million total. Players have a choice, and so does Gonchar.
That's a bit idealistic in what is a business, and for what will be Gonchar's last NHL contract if it goes long-term. Malkin and Crosby took "hometown discounts" in their early 20s, and those discounts still amounted to a $9 million salary annually.
The other issue is replacing that talent with what's already on the roster. On the one hand, it's going to have to happen eventually with Gonchar's age (36). On the other, there's no need to find a replacement for Sergei Gonchar when you could have the actual Sergei Gonchar on your roster. From Pensburgh:
Unless the price is right - and by that I mean, affordable and not LONG long term - then the Pens should make an effort to bring Gonchar back to Pittsburgh. He's just about as much a textbook example of power-play specialist as you're going to find, and really the Pens cannot afford to go hunting for a guy to fill his shoes. Besides, does one even exist for the right price?
As Rossi indicated, it might come down to franchise priorities: Does keeping Gonchar for the next few seasons bring them closer to the Cup than reallocating that money, if Gonchar doesn't give them a discount?