Following an exciting NHL Entry Draft, Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero reached into his bag of tricks and acquired the rights to former Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis from the rival Philadelphia Flyers who, in turn, received a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.
This was a move that spoke volumes to Pittsburgh fans and the rest of the NHL world:
1) Shero is aggressively trying to find a solution to the Pens' problems on defense.
2) The "negotiations with Sergei Gonchar are still ongoing" statements have just lost significant value.
Since Pens defenseman Kris Letang signed an extension to his contract during the season, I had a feeling that Gonchar's days with the team were numbered and we have just taken a huge leap in that direction.
At age 36, Gonchar has seen better days than the past two seasons, where he has played only 87 season games because of sustained injuries.
But his time as a healthy Penguin has given priceless success to the organization, especially in the team's power play.
As the season progressed, I did notice that Gonchar seemed to be missing a piece of his game and he never found it.
Maybe he was still battling injuries, maybe his heart wasn't in it. Either way, his play toward the end of the season triggered talks that maybe it was Gonchar's time to go, especially since it was evident that he and Shero were having problems agreeing on a new contract.
If disagreements continue and Gonchar ultimately signs with another team, it would be a sad farewell. Gonchar has been a huge asset to the team, on and off the ice, and was a key player in the Stanley Cup win in 2009.
However, with the acquisition of Hamhuis's rights, the sting has significantly lessened.
Hamhuis has been a hot pick for many teams in the NHL, including the Pens, because he's proven himself as a defensive defenseman with a physical snare that has the ability to send a bullet of a shot from the blue line to the back of the net.
Other impressive facts about Hamhuis include that he plays close to a full 82-game season while putting up big minutes on Nashville's penalty kill. An added bonus is that he can play on a top power play unit.
If Shero were to find a way to sign Hamhuis, I would accompany the deal by offering Jordan Leopold something like a two-year deal for no more than $2 million.
I was pleased with what Leopold brought to the table, essentially a solid puck handler who is smart in his own end but can join the rush if necessary. Leopold also played on the second power play unit, so if he signs and Gonchar leaves, then I can only assume that he would be promoted to the first unit.
Leopold is no Gonchar on the point, but having a more seasoned defenseman on the power play will take away pressure from Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang, who have struggled to find consistency in their positions on the unit.
I truly do hope Shero can make a deal with Hamhuis because he would help fill a huge gap that was once Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill, especially with Gonchar most likely heading to free agency.
If that's the case, then I bid Gonchar farewell. Your time with the Penguins is one that we will all cherish and appreciate and we are proud that you hoisted your first Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh.
To Hamhuis, hopefully the Pittsburgh organization can give you what you want.
Overall, so far so good for Ray Shero.