Recently I used this space to discuss how Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar hasn’t panned out. He is signed for one more year at a five million dollar cap hit for the 2014 season. It seems unlikely at this point that general manager Jim Nill will use his final remaining compliance buyout on Gonchar, so what exactly are Dallas’ options for the veteran going forward?
First and foremost, he will be on the roster this season, despite the influx of young defensemen in the pipeline knocking on the door. Even with a few guys from Cedar Park ready to make the jump, Gonchar can still contribute and it is a reach to say he would be surpassed by every other defenseman at training camp.
That means this season ends with one of two possibilities, either the Stars allow him to walk in free agency next summer, or a trade ensues at some point during the season. With all the youth coming in on defense, along with the team trending younger, Gonchar getting re-signed in Dallas is a long shot even if he plays great this season. There is just too much youth coming in and Nill has stated that he likes the players coming up.
So who are viable trade partners? After scoring only two goals and a minus 12 rating last season, it is doubtful that Gonchar will be going to a contender, barring an injury. His cap hit is a little high considering what he brings to the table at this stage in his career, which means we need to look to teams who have the cap space, could use more scoring from their blue line and/or have a need for a veteran defenseman.
One team that has been mentioned by several outlets as a possible fit is the Buffalo Sabres. They currently only have five defensemen on the roster, and none over age 29. They also have a little more than $11 million in cap space. They have both the cap space and the need for some veteran leadership. Christian Ehrhoff’s 33 points left for Pittsburgh, leaving Tyler Myers (22 points) as the leading scorer amongst defenseman and only Sabre with more than 20 points. This seems like the most likely, if any, trade possibilities.
The Winnipeg Jets could also be a fit. Three of their seven defensemen are 25 or younger, with four in the 29-30 range. Despite that, the Jets have $13.5 million in cap space and are in need of more offense from the blue line. Only two of their defenders scored at least 29 points and the rest of the defenseman combined for only 41 points. Gonchar could provide for some additional scoring from the back end and would be an upgrade over the likes of Adam Pardy, Zach Bogosian or Keaton Ellerby. Typically players don’t get traded within the division, but this could be a possible partner for Dallas.
The Edmonton Oilers could be a possible destination as they have just under nine million in cap space, and also need more offense from the back end. Justin Schultz led their blue line in scoring with 33 points, the only defender to score over 18 points. Andrew Ference is also their only defender over 28 years old, but the rest of the corps isn’t exactly green by NHL standards. This is less likely, but Edmonton does have a history of making bad personnel moves.
Of course this is all just speculation and somewhat educated guesswork. Gonchar could play lights out this season and win the Norris trophy. Or he could be what he is, an offensive defenseman who’s offense is in decline and is now more of a liability than an asset. Odds are that he will be gone after this season, and many Stars fans would be happy just to get a mid to late round draft pick for him. One thing Stars fans can take solace in is that Nill does his homework and if there is any value to extract from Gonchar, odds are Nill will find a way.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading and go Stars!