Sens sign Gonchar; Still work to do

UPDATED SATURDAY JULY 3RD DISCUSSING THE DEFENCE

With the addition of Sergei Gonchar to the lineup, the Ottawa Senators have added a significant piece to their backend. Gonchar is arguably the best offensive defenseman the Senators have ever had.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray took an aggressive run at Gonchar, calling him at 12:01 ET on July 1st to inquire about his services. Gonchar was seeking a four year deal from his previous team, the Pittsburgh Penquins, but they were reluctant to give that kind of term to the 36 year old. While Murray and the Sens might have liked to get Gonchar on a shorter term, consider it the cost of doing business to acquire one of the top offensive D-man of the era (second only to Nik Lidstrom really).

Ottawa will be unable to do much else in the free agent market after committing that much cap space to Gonchar. Murray will now turn his attention to signing some key restricted free agents.

Peter Regin and Nick Foligno are now the top priority. Regin seems poised for a breakout year after a strong showing in the playoffs, and will be counted on to provide more offense than his 29 points during the regular season last year. He’s penciled in to the top six for Ottawa and will quite possibly will be riding shotgun on the Jason Spezza’s wing.

Foligno has shown the ability to produce in the league, but must begin to so on a regular basis. Many felt Foligno had the potential to be a top 6 player in the league, but he is being passed in the Ottawa organization by players like the aforementioned Regin and, possibly even Zack Smith in the near future.

Both are wanted back as they are young and still have the promise to help the secondary scoring for Ottawa, but getting them under contract could mean other moves in the lineup.

If Ottawa were to sign these two and another defenseman for the 6/7 role, the team would look like this (Foligno, Regin and Campoli are estimates and lines are solely based on salary):

AUTO-GENERATED CAPGEEK.COM LINES

FORWARDS
Jason Spezza ($7.000m) / Alexei Kovalev ($5.000m) / Daniel Alfredsson ($4.875m)
Milan Michalek ($4.333m) / Mike Fisher ($4.200m) / Chris Kelly ($2.125m)
Chris Neil ($2.000m) / * Peter Regin ($1.600m) / * Nick Foligno ($1.500m)
Jarkko Ruutu ($1.300m) / Jesse Winchester ($0.750m) / Ryan Shannon ($0.625m)
Zack Smith ($0.583m)

DEFENSEMEN
Sergei Gonchar ($5.500m) / Filip Kuba ($3.700m)
Chris Phillips ($3.500m) / Erik Karlsson ($1.300m)
* Chris Campoli ($1.000m) / Brian Lee ($0.875m)
Matt Carkner ($0.700m)

GOALTENDERS
Pascal Leclaire ($3.800m) / Brian Elliott ($0.850m)

CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS
(these totals are compiled using the bonus cushion)
ROSTER: 22; CAP: $59.4m; PAYROLL: $59.046m; CAP ROOM: $0.779m BONUSES: $0.425m

This allows Ottawa to carry an 13th forward and a 7th defenceman in case of injury. Of course, a youngster may challenge for a spot on the team, most likely defenceman Jared Cowen, but I think it best not to assume too much at this point. If Cowen did earn a spot, his cap hit would be $0.3M higher than what I have estimated for Campoli, and would cut the Sens cap room to $0.479M.

Where could more space be found?

A lot of fans are calling for a trade involving Filip Kuba and his $3.7M cap hit as a way of clear space. While such a move would clear space in would require an additional move to sure up the defence after moving one Ottawa’s top four.

Some are down on Kuba’s play, but I believe part of that is due to being slightly miss cast in Ottawa, Kuba is a decent defender that has the ability to move the puck, but is in no way an elite puck-moving defenceman (PMD) in the league. With the addition of Gonchar and the emergence of Karlsson, less pressure is place on Kuba and I believe he will have a very solid year. Plus at $3.7M for a veteran, top four defenceman, he is hardly the most onerous contract out there.

I could only see Kuba moved if another defenceman, most likely one with a physical edge to his game was also being brought back. A couple Canucks are available in Kevin Bieska ($3.75M) and UFA Willie Mitchell. Mitchell could be an option at a cheaper price due to his concussion problem this past year, but would fill the role of physical, veteran presence perfectly, if healthy.

Others think that bringing back a defenceman is unnecessary as Ottawa has good young defensive prospect in Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercoch. My question, what if they aren’t ready, and you trade away the veteran insurance like Kuba. Both are looking like the could be good players in the future for Ottawa, but have not proven anything at the professional level, and making such assumptions can be dangerous.

Just as an aside to this Kuba trade talk, if he were to be moved, I think there would be teams interested, and I’d put the Los Angeles Kings near the top of the list, after they were unable to land any of the free agent defencemen on July 1st.

The most likely move would see someone from the third line with a larger salary traded to make a spot for either Foligno or Smith. Kelly and Ruutu are the top candidates for this, as Ruutu could easily be replaced by the two, and while Kelly may be missed more, he would clear more cap space and might bring back a slightly better return.

Neither are huge cap hit, but could give the Sens enough breathing space to feel comfortable.

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One response to “Sens sign Gonchar; Still work to do”

  1. George O'Leary says :

    Personally, I’d prefer to see Ottawa try to deal Shannon, Foligno, Lee and Campoli – either as a package in return for prospect(s) and/or future draft picks – or individually. Shannon is a “90 miles an hour down a dead-end street” type of player – fast, but never seems to get anywhere where he can do some damage. Lee has dropped too far in the D pecking order, but is still young enough to attract interest from some rebuilding club (Edmonton?). Foligino has this habit of looking good for a few games, then pulling a disappearing act for 10 games or so. Again, he’s young so trade him now before other GMs start to notice his inconsistencies. They simply don’t need Campoli now that Gonchar is here and Karlsson seems to be developing at a fast pace as an offensice D. I wouldn’t touch the Ruutu, Neil, Kelly line which was their most consistent line in the 6-game series with Pittsburgh. Use the money freed up by those moves to bring in a steady hard-nosed D.

    Afinogenov accepted $800K and had a terrific year. Surprises me someone hasn’t signed him yet. Even if you give him 3 times what he was making last year it’s still a bargain for a 60 point guy. I think Lilja would be a great signing for the Sens. Or Shaone Morrisonn who would be a good replacement for Sutton. Younger, same size, same type of player, more mobile, less money. A forward who would fit the Sens style to a T is Ryan Johnson, Van. The problem with the young guys, Butler, Hoffman, Wick (IF he comes over) is that the only opening for a forward is on the 4th line. Not really their style but exactly what Johnson is good at.

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