The Canadiens have acquired veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar from the Dallas Stars in return for left wing Travis Moen.
The 40-year old Gonchar has only played in three games so far this season after suffering a broken ankle in training camp causing him to miss the season’;s first eleven games. Dallas will retain 400 thousand dollars of Gonchar’s 5 million dollar salary, meaning his cap hit for the Canadiens will be 4.6 million.
Over his 20 years in the NHL, Gonchar established himself as one of the league’s better puck moving defensemen. He’s big, strong and while excellent offensively from the blue line, has also established himself as extremely reliable in his own end. He is the first Russian born defenseman to reach the 200 goal and 500 assists mark. (102 of those goals have come on the power play). He will be re-united with head coach Michel Therrien. They were together in Pittsburgh for parts of four seasons between 2006 and 2009. Gonchar was part of the Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup team.
Time has clearly eroded many of those skills which brings up the question of Marc Bergevin‘s motivation for making the trade. The obvious answer might lie in the inexperience of both Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. Gonchar is a left shot, so he will bump one or both down to the Hamilton Bulldogs for more seasoning. Also, there might be enough left in the Gonchar’s tank that he might improve the Canadiens dreadful power play.
On the other side, it’s clear to anyone paying attention that Moen’s value to the Canadiens had been reduced that of a reliable penalty killer. Dallas on the other hand is horrible in that department, ranking 26th in the league having already given up 12 goals in 50 shorthanded situations.
From a Salary Cap standpoint – Moen has another year remaining in his contract at 1.85 million per season. That extra year is now off their books. and with Gonchar in the final year of his two year 5 million dollar annual contract the Canadiens now have room to sign upcoming restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
In his two decades in the league Gonchar has played for Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Ottawa and the Stars. His career totals are 1256 games – 219 goals, 579 assists, 798 points. He has also represented Russia in four Olympic Games.
Gonchar talked to the Montreal media via a conference call from Phoenix where the Stars are scheduled to play the Coyotes Tuesday night.
ON VACATING HIS NO TRADE CLAUSE
“When you look at Montreal as a team, you see they’re a group with a lot of good players. They’re playing the game with good puck possession. They’re skating well, and they’re winning games. They’re one of the most recognized franchises in hockey, so I would say when you look at all of that, you want to join that and you want to be a part of it. That’s why it was a no-brainer for me to accept that trade.”
ON THE STATE OF HIS CONDITIONING
“I haven’t played as much lately, but at the same time I can still play and help any team I play for. If my minutes increase, I think I can play more, and I’m ready for it. But, I’m only one piece in a big puzzle. I’m sure every player on that team is going to bring something. Everybody is going to participate and chip in. That’s what I’m going to do when I get there.”
ON PLAYING AGAIN FOR MICHEL THERRIEN
“We had a good relationship. We worked together for a few years. I remember Mike as a hard-working guy who prepared very well for every game. He was asking players to do the same. Our relationship was very good, in my opinion.”
ON PLAYING AGAIN WITH FORMER OLYMPIC TEAMMATE ANDREI MARKOV
“I’ve always liked Andrei. He’s an exceptional player. It will be fun to play with him. We played together a little bit in international competitions, but now I’ll get to spend more time with him and I’m looking forward to it.”
ON THE AGE FACTOR
“If I accepted this trade at 40 years old, it’s because I know I can still help a team. I might be 40, but there are guys in the NHL that have played past 40, too. Look at Selanne, Chelios, Lidstrom and Jagr, who’s still playing. Forty is a big number, but I know that I can still play.”