Gonchar. 3 years. 5.5 million per.
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.
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.