The Dallas Stars got a jump on the free agent market Friday, acquiring the rights to defenseman Sergei Gonchar from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional sixth-round draft pick.
“We just had our pro meetings and we think Sergei Gonchar is one of the top free agents available this year,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “We want to make our team better, we want to improve our defense and Sergei has been a great player for many years in the league. He’s a high-end, character player. We know he’s going to bring leadership to the team on the ice and off the ice. He’s going to help with our power play. He’s been a great player for many years. To have the opportunity to grab a player like this is something we’ve been looking to do since I came on board.”
The Stars still have to sign Gonchar, who made $5.5 million this past season in what was the final year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract. The 39-year-old Russian likely is looking for a two-year deal and Nill said he is willing to go there.
“Yes, I would. It all depends on money, too,” Nill said. “It’s kind of a give-and-take. It all depends on the salary he wants and it all kind of works hand-in-hand. It gives us the rights to negotiate with him now, and we’ll talk with him and his agent and see if we can work out a deal.”
Gonchar waived his no-trade clause to allow the Stars and Senators to complete Friday’s deal. The conditions on that sixth-round pick rest on if Gonchar signs with the Stars. If he does, Ottawa gets a sixth-round pick. If he doesn’t sign, the Stars keep the pick.
Gonchar, selected 14th overall by Washington in the 1992 NHL Draft, twice has been voted to the NHL Second All-Star Team. He’s played in four NHL All-Star Games. He won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. He ranks 19th all-time among NHL defensemen with 775 points (217 goals, 558 assists) in 1,177 games. He ranks 10th among defensemen all-time in power play goals with 101.
Last season, he led Ottawa defensemen in scoring with 27 points (3 goals, 24 assists) in 45 games. He ranked second on the team with 23:59 of ice time per game. He also received high marks in Ottawa for his help with younger players. The Senators played 14 rookies over the course of last season, including three on defense.
“Part of our game plan is we want to add some veteran presence to our team. We have some good young kids coming, but you need to have veteran presence,” Nill said. “It’s a man’s game and he’s been a great player for many years. He had a great year last year. We know that he looks after himself, he’s a highly conditioned athlete. I come from the model in Detroit and we’ve had a lot of success with the older players that look after themselves and bring veteran presence. He’s a piece of the puzzle. He brings great leadership in the dressing room and will bring high skill level to our backend. … He has high leadership skills and is a great character player. We want to add that to our team. “