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Numbers Game: Senators Sign Sergei Gonchar

Scott Cullen
7/1/2010 1:53:05 PM
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The Ottawa Senators opened the free agent season with a blockbuster signing, bringing in one of the game's best power play quarterbacks.

Numbers Game examines the Sergei Gonchar signing.

The Senators Get: D Sergei Gonchar.

Gonchar, 36, has at least 30 power play points in four of his five seasons with the Penguins (and had 14 power play points in 25 games in 2008-2009), so his addition has to help Ottawa's power play, a unit that tied for 20th in the league in 2009-2010.

In 991 career games, Gonchar has scored 363 of his 684 points (53.1%) with the man advantage, but he does more than that, playing anywhere between 24 and 26 minutes per game and he's done it a high level for a long time.

By signing Gonchar, and most likely losing Anton Volchenkov as a free agent, the Senators change the look of their defence, upgrading their puck skills and it will allow promising young defenceman Erik Karlsson to ease into his offensive role, but doing with the support of a more proven talent on the blueline.

If right-shooting Karlsson is going to remain in a prominent power play position with the Senators -- and why wouldn't he? -- Gonchar's arrival does figure to cut into the power play time that Filip Kuba has been used to (more than four minutes per game in last two seasons), so Kuba's not likely to improve the point-scoring rate (68 points in 124 games -- .55 points per game) he's put up in two seasons with the Senators.   

Gonchar's deal is for three seasons, at $5.5-million per season. 

Since he is over 35, the deal will count against the Senators cap regardless of whether Gonchar retires or not and his health has to be a consideration, given that he's missed 77 games over the past two seasons but, when healthy, he's one of the game's best point producers from the blueline -- Gonchar's .80 points per game since the lockout ranks a close second to Nicklas Lidstrom (.81) among NHL defencemen.

Upgrading the Ottawa power play should mean good things for the forwards on that unit as well, so Jason Spezza (provided he stays), Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Kovalev and Mike Fisher could all see a bump in their production with the man advantage.

Pittsburgh responded to the departure of Gonchar by signing Zbynek Michalek; a younger, more defensively-inclined option.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

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