The first roster move for new Dallas Stars’ General Manager Jim Nill has came to fruition as on June 7th, the Dallas Stars announced that they had acquired the negotiating rights of Sergei Gonchar from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional sixth round draft pick. The condition being that if Gonchar, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins July 5th, and the Stars do not reach a deal, then the Stars do not lose the draft pick. It didn’t take Gonchar or the Stars long though to reach a deal as it was announced on June 8th, that the Stars had signed Gonchar to a two-year ten million dollar contract.
Gonchar, who turned 39 in April, will be entering his 20th season of professional hockey joining his fifth NHL club, previously playing for the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ottawa Senators. Gonchar is a native of Chelyabinsk, Russia and was drafted 14th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1992 NHL entry draft and has made his career as a highly productive point producing offensive defenseman. Gonchar made his NHL debut in the lockout shortened 1994-1995 season where in 31 games for the Capitals Gonchar registered 7 points (2g, 5a). The following season he registered 41 points (15g, 26a) and began living up to his potential as an offensive defenseman. Gonchar played nine full seasons for the Capitals and had incredible numbers for Washington including: two twenty goal seasons, four 50 point seasons, and one of the fifty point seasons being a 67 point season in 2002-2003.
In his tenth NHL season Gonchar was traded from the Washington Capitals to the Boston Bruins at the 2004 trade deadline to help the Bruins in their playoff run, the Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. The 2004-2005 season saw another lockout for the NHL and Gonchar returned to his native Russia to play in the KHL. As the NHL came back in 2005-2006 Gonchar had signed a five year 25 million dollar contract to join the Pittsburgh Penguins, and their new up and coming Stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Gonchar registered fifty points in all but one of his seasons with the Penguins, due to injury, and registered two sixty point seasons. In the 2008-2009 regular season Gonchar missed most of the season due to injury, but when he returned he helped lead the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Penguins winning the Cup that year.
Gonchar would spend one more season in Pittsburgh, before moving on to the Ottawa Senators signing a three year deal. The Senators have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but Gonchar has definitely slowed down a bit with age. Gonchar could have waited until July to become a free agent but when asked to waive his no trade clause and have his negotiating rights dealt to the Stars, Gonchar saw more than just ten million dollars he would make over the next two years. Gonchar told Mark Stepneski of DallasStars.com in a recent interview, “I am very excited because I know they are going to be doing everything to make sure the team is going to be turned around and move forward to be better next year, I feel like the organization is going to improve over the summer, and I am really excited to be part of it.” Gonchar also spoke of what he is looking for playing with the Stars, “My priority at this stage of my career is to really have a chance to win every night, you want to be on a team that is competing every night, trying to win every night and has a chance to make the playoffs and go far in the playoffs and win a Cup. I just don’t want to sign and be somewhere where you make your money and you’re happy. The most important reason I signed with Dallas is because after I talked to them, I found out they are going to sign more players, they are going to improve the team and they are going to do whatever it takes to make that next step. That’s what made me sign with them.”
Gonchar joins the Stars as the active leader in points by defensemen, and just this season passed former Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov as the all time leader in points scored by a Russian born defenseman. The Stars look to continue the new plan under General Manager Jim Nill and as the draft approaches and the search for a new head coach soon to be coming to a close, the next big assignment for the Stars is the roster now including Sergei Gonchar.