Thursday, July 1, 2010

UPDATE 4:45; Murray Steals Gonchar From Pens .... Volchenkov Signs A Bargain Deal With NJ

Gonchar. 3 years. 5.5 million per.

Mindblowing deal.

I was ready to bury the Senators today for letting Anton Volchenkov walk away but never did I imagine the Senators would be able to hit a home run the other way by grabbing the best offensive defenseman in the market.

The term and the money are all ideal. Even if Gonchar begins to slow down, three years is not a long time. The cap hit is very, very reasonable for a player of Gonchar's capabilities and there is nothing to suggest Gonchar will be anything other than a godsend for the Senators power-play.

After ranking in the bottom 10 of the league with the man advantage, the Senators can now have a tandem of Gonchar and Erik Karlsson feeding pucks to Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Kovalev, assuming the Russian forward's knee is on the mend.

If anyone is worried about Gonchar slowing down, you have to think what his strengths are. Running the power-play and moving the puck out of the zone. Those skills don't really go away with age. Instead it's the physical grind and the minutes that are harder to handle. Gonchar is not going to be asked to do what Volchenkov did (nobody could do it better than Volchie anyways), so to me, the issue is moot unless Gonchar proves to be injury prone down the stretch of his career. It's a risk, but one well worth taking considering the circumstances.

It's interesting to note the Senators are simply exchanging one Russian with another, yet the direction of the team is now going to change completely. It's offense GM Murray is looking for and when you lose perhaps the best defensive defenseman in the league, it may not be a bad idea to swing the other way and go for one of the best offensive ones.

Yet, it's still a bittersweet moment for Ottawa. Volchenkov was a core player just entering his prime and the Senators will no doubt be poorer in their own zone with his loss. Yet with Gonchar's ability to move the puck, they may not be spending much time there anyways.

This also effectively puts an end to a theory, partly put forth on this very site, that star players would not want to play in this market with the successive Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza trade controversies.

Last year it was Kovalev and this summer it's Gonchar. To paraphrase David Spade in the movie Tommy Boy, Bryan Murray "could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves."

Bryan Murray created a hole by letting Volchenkov leave, but he more than strengthened the power-play, which frankly, was an embarrassment last season.

So, offense it's going to be.

And Murray may not yet be done. Let's see what else happens today.

***

Update: 4:45

Volchenkov signs with New Jersey for 6 years and only 4.2 million, not even close to the 5 million plus that everyone quoted as gospel.

This raises a few questions. It's hard to believe Murray wasn't willing to pay 4.2 to keep his best defenseman. Perhaps it was the term that Murray wasn't willing to meet. Then again, 6 years is not overtly excessive for a player just entering his prime like Volchenkov is.

It makes you wonder what could have been. For an extra 500, 000 dollars (a pittance), the Senators could possibly have kept Volchenkov and moved Filip Kuba's 3.7 million cap hit to another team, which would have given the Senators a far superior top four defense than they currently have now.

But maybe Volchenkov was determined to leave no matter what. Certainly, by playing in NJ, he now finds himself close to one of the biggest Russian communities in the United States, but he is also playing for a team that seems to have taken a step back, with an aging Martin Brodeur and an increasingly less mobile defense.

With Murray's penchant for revealing details of his negotiations, I'm sure we'll hear the full story soon enough.

But it's all just spilled milk now. Volchenkov is a huge loss for Ottawa and a big gain for New Jersey, but Murray made the best move possible by signing elite defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

It's just so tempting to imagine what could have been with both countrymen Gonchar and Volchenkov on the same team, possibly even the same pairing.

But that ship has sailed.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the player, but I don't like the contract.

He's over 35. Even Lidstrom only got a two year deal when he was over 35. If anything happens injury wise, we're screwed because the whole amount counts towards the cap.

Good player, but we got him because we overpaid. Not too many teams in the league would go three years for a 35+ guy.

Another NTC as well. Another guy who will retire in a Sens uni.

We're becoming like the senators on Parliament Hill. A bunch of old guys, waiting for retirement, who are overpaid.

We would have been better off signing Volch, and letting Karlsson run with the #1 power play option role.

I'd still sign Volch. Move Kuba to make room.

Anonymous said...

Glen Sather is senile.

He gave a four year $6.6M deal to Derek Boogaard. I know it's a Sens blog, but ...

He's definitely the front runner for the Mike Milbury award.

hambown said...

This is a fantastic deal, one that has the potential to bring real change to our weak powerplay. I like it a lot. This has the added effect of putting pressure on Filip Kuba to up his play. With Karlsson and Gonchar getting the majority of the powerplay time, he'll have to up his production 5v5 and be better defensively if he ever wants to get another NHL contract. Great signing Murray! Now just take care of our RFAs please.

To the anonymous poster who claims:

"We would have been better off signing Volch, and letting Karlsson run with the #1 power play option role.
"

How would we be better off exactly? Karlsson *did* run the '#1 power play option role', and our power play stunk. Signing Volchenkov would handcuff the Senators in two ways: it would have to have been a long term contract, since a short term contract was not possible (he wants a long term one), and the Sens need to plan on signing Karlsson in two years while still leaving money to sign Rundblad/Cowen/Wiercioch in the following years. Tying up big money in Volchenkov for the next 5 to 6 years just does not make sense for the club.

Good luck to Volchenkov, wherever he ends up. My money is on Florida.

Anonymous said...

hambown,

It's anon @ 1:15pm. You're making a huge assumption that Rundblad, Cowen, and Wiercoch will turn out to be really good players. They have yet to play a shift (Cowen played one game, I think). Statistically speaking, the odds are against them.

Volch is proven. He just signed for $4.25M over six years as a 28 year old. I think we let one get away. He's a difference maker. That's nowhere near the $5M that was speculated.

Why not move Kuba and make room for Volch.

172 blocked shots in 64 games. How many more goals go in now? Our goalies have SV% of around .900.

Our power play will stink this year as well. We don't have a finisher on the roster. We need a natural goal scorer. Who's going to score?

The purge of the successful 2007 Cup finalists continues. The guys who built the Sens winning culture are being shown the door.

Chris Phillips, start packing your bags, you're next.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if you're a Flames fan, how can you not want to jump off a tall building.

Jeremy Milks said...

Yah, Flames just get more bizarre. I thought Vancouver did an incredible job over the past few days. Ballard could be the best trade they've made in some time.

Interested to see if Shean Donovan catches on somewhere. Buffalo would be a good fit if they lose Adam Mair.

GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

No, the best signing posible would have been resigning Anton and then moving Kuba. Murray had all summer to do it.

Canucnik said...

Come on guys...wake up...Kuba is immovable...Volchy will not last 6 years..."Erik" can take a deep breath...Kovy is singing "Happy days are here again in Russian"...and Mr. Gonchar told you this afternoon that he will make you a "Contender again!"

Note: "And we are!"

Anonymous said...

You know, with the cap increasing a couple of million every year, Volchie's contract will look like a bargain in a couple of years.

Even today, $4.25M may be a bit on the high side, but it's not that bad. In two years, he'll be considered a bargain.

I've got tears in my eyes. I don't want Volch to leave. Maybe we can make a trade with NJ.

Maybe Brodeur starts to breakdown with age. The current core gets exposed a bit. NJ decides they have to rebuild. They do a tear down to get high picks.

At that point, we make an offer on Volch, and he waives his NTC because he wants to come back.

Yes. that's what I'm hoping for.

Canucnik said...

Anon:

Volchy better be on his game because Brodeur is so good he plays aroung the shot blocker...if Anton has a year of in between like last year...they are both finished!!

hambown said...

to anon @ 1:15:

>It's anon @ 1:15pm. You're making a >huge assumption that Rundblad, Cowen, >and Wiercoch will turn out to be >really good players. They have yet to >play a shift (Cowen played one game, I >think). Statistically speaking, the >odds are against them.

I'm making the assumption that at least one of the three, maybe two will be really good players. Given their draft position, their performance since then and the relative strength of their draft years, I think the chances of at least one of them turning out is good. So the Sens need to plan for this.

>Volch is proven. He just signed for >$4.25M over six years as a 28 year >old. I think we let one get away. He's >a difference maker. That's nowhere >near the $5M that was speculated.

He is without doubt a quality shot blocker and mean dude, but he can't help our young defensemen get better. Nor can he improve our puck possession and powerplay. While I would have loved to see him stay a Senator, I'm willing to let him go so that the Senators defense will be much more adept on transition from defense to attack.

>Why not move Kuba and make room for >Volch.

Because no-one is going to take on Kuba's contract given his play the last two years. He's a gentle giant coming off of back surgery; his contract stinks. I think we're stuck with him until the contract expires.

>172 blocked shots in 64 games. How >many more goals go in now? Our goalies >have SV% of around .900.

Probably more, but there are mitigating factors: with Gonchar playing more minutes, the Sens will keep the puck more often. The Sens will also score more goals to offset the effect of fewer blocked shots.

>Our power play will stink this year as >well. We don't have a finisher on the >roster. We need a natural goal scorer. >Who's going to score?

I disagree. We have lots of forwards who can shoot, what we need is better puck distribution to create space for those shots. Kovalev, Spezza, Alfredsson and Fisher are all good shots, but if no one is a threat to shoot from the point (besides Karlsson), then they are too easy to defend. Gonchar has improved the powerplay of every team he has played for, why not the Senators?

Canucnik said...

Note: Kovalev's/Spezza's powerplay scoring shall go up in direct proportion to Malkin's/Gerand's powerplay scoring going down.

That pass back across the grain on the PP...only Crosby was unable to sink it! It's unstopable!!

Stop crying about Volchy...we all loved the guy...the wheels...he's been hit too often...six more seasons and he was getting caught in the middle last year...watch Brodeur bring him right back to the crease with him...this looks good on Lamourillo!

Pierre said...

Not crazy about the Gonchar deal, to be honest. It looks a whole lot like a golden parachute to me, a retirement contract to an aging player; the third year is especially egregious.

We'll see though, but there's a question mark on who will stop the pucks from entering our zone and our net...