The Sergei Gonchar Conundrum

Zak Kulin@@Zak_KulinContributor IDecember 16, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  Sergei Gonchar #55 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on November 27, 2009 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Sergei Gonchar is without a doubt one of the league's premier offensive defensemen. His prowess on the power play and innate ability to skate with his head up are second to none. However, he is approaching the end of his contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins and there are questions arising over what action should be taken. Fortunately the Penguins have several options to choose from.

One such option is to try to negotiate with Gonchar throughout the season and hopefully reach a number that is suitable to both parties. One problem with this option is the fact that Gonchar can probably make a good deal of money on the open market. With superstars such as Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury locked up for several years, there is not much cap space to work with. In order for Gonchar to resign with the Penguins, he will likely have to take a "hometown discount."

Another option Ray Shero has is to attempt a trade if negotiations stall. The market for an experienced power-play quarterback with an above-average defensive skill set is sizable, as several teams would likely be interested. The defensive depth that the Penguins have is something Ray Shero has coveted, and one possible solution could be to trade from this depth, and possibly acquire a winger.

The Penguins have a plethora of grinders and workhorses as forwards, but lack snipers. To acquire someone like Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes would make the Penguins offense that much more impressive. Mueller has struggled in Phoenix and could possibly use a change of scenery. However, it would likely take more than a pending unrestricted free agent to acquire him.

Ultimately, the Penguins do not have to acquire anyone in order to help them, however if the negotiations do not pan out, Ray Shero might as well try and attempt to get something of value for Gonchar. The bottom line is that with the revelation of Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang as productive offensive defenseman, and prospects such as Ben Lovejoy, Alex Grant, and Brian Strait in the system, Sergei Gonchar has essentially become expendable.

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