Pittsburgh Penguins: For Sergei Gonchar, The Price Is Wrong

Alison Myers@AlisonM_110Correspondent IJune 30, 2010

PITTSBURGH - MAY 2:  Sergei Gonchar #55 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shoots the puck against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 2, 2010 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Since the end of their season in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the status of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar has been up in the air.

Gonchar is an unrestricted free agent, but many feel he could still return to the Penguins, even if it was just for one more year.

There have been varying reports about Gonchar’s status.

One was that Gonchar was to be traded to San Jose (ended up being a rumor with no backing).

Another was Gonchar was to be traded to the Boston Bruins (another rumor).

On the first night of the NHL draft, TSN reported that Gonchar was looking for a three-year extension from the Penguins. However, general manager Ray Shero was only willing to provide two years.

Yesterday on Twitter, TSN personality Darren Dreger reported that Gonchar was now seeking a four-year extension.

After Dreger’s report, I’m starting to believe that Gonchar is demanding too much from Pittsburgh.

Sure, he won a Stanley Cup here and was an integral part of the Penguins' mediocre power play.

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But even after Shero already seemed to indicate that he couldn’t work out what Gonchar wanted, his camp has continued asking for unreasonable extensions.

Let’s look at Gonchar’s career with the Penguins.

He has had more than 50 points in each of the five seasons he has been here, with the exception of 2008 -2009, when he missed significant time due to a shoulder injury sustained in the preseason.

He had his best season in 2007 -2008, when he had 65 points and a plus -13 rating.

This year, he put up 50 points, but his defensive game dropped off with a minus -4 rating.

His production on the power play has been dropping the last three seasons. However, this season he slightly picked things up with six power play goals, as opposed to his five power play goals in 2008 -2009.

But the stories of Gonchar’s last few seasons have not been his offense or his veteran leadership.

They’ve been about his injuries.

A shoulder injury which caused him to miss several months in 2008 -2009. A knee injury in the 2009 playoffs. A broken wrist sustained this past season. He also had two other minor problems this season, missing time with strep throat and a bruised foot (not at the same time).

Gonchar’s injuries are part of the reason why I feel he is asking too much from the Penguins. Over the last few seasons, the time he’s missed has been detrimental to the team. Can Shero really afford three or four more years of that? I don’t think so.

Furthermore, he is aging. Gonchar is 36 years old and most hockey players slow down as they get older.

Can we be so sure that Gonchar will be producing the same at 40 years old as he is at 36 years old? No.

The Penguins have younger defensemen locked up for the next several years in Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang. Top prospect Ben Lovejoy recently got a three-year extension and is expected to make the club next season.

These three players have a lot of talent, and there are other defensive prospects who could make an impact within the next four to five years.

Gonchar has also shown that he is too valuable to the Penguins that the team reaches a point where they are unproductive without him.

You can’t have that when a player goes down injured.

I feel that Gonchar is almost too crucial to the Penguins. Most look at this as a good thing to explain why he deserves to be re -signed, but I see it as a detriment.

How can the Penguins be truly great when they really depend on one player for their success? Everyone has to work together to contribute, even if it means stepping up when a great player is sidelined for several weeks.

Sorry, Gonchar…the price is wrong.