The vibe around the league heading into the new year as noted by highly respected columinst Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News, is that Pittsburgh will let Sergei Gonchar walk via free agency rather than pay him $15-$20 million on a 3 or 4 year contract.
However, independent sources continue to claim that any talk of Gonchar leaving is premature at this point as the first set of substantive talks with Penguins general manager Ray Shero and J.P. Barry the agent for Gonchar will not begin until another couple weeks.
Pittsburgh will break off talks after the trade deadline as Pittsburgh now has a 6-7 week window to strike a deal.
Meanwhile, team sources have confirmed that Gonchar is indeed seeking close to $5 million per season. As a source told me, if Gonchar was willing to take a home-town discount, a deal would have been struck in the summer.
Despite Gonchar wanting to get paid, the Penguins have not ruled out making him an offer close to to his current pay and both sides are going into the first set of talks with an open mind.
Gonchar remains Pittsburgh’s top priority and one option that Pittsburgh plans to explore is a base salary in the range of
$3.5 million with performances bonuses that could make the contract upwards of $5 million per season. In that kind of scenario, Pittsburgh is willing to go four years I’m told from multiple sources.
The reason that many executives around the league believe that Pittsburgh would let Gonchar walk is because of Kris Letang.
In the summer I noted that Letang’s camp was seeking upwards of $3.25 million. Others have confirmed that with a $4 million price tag being speculated.
Just because Letang is seeking that type of money, doesn’t mean Pittsburgh is going to give it to him.
Pittsburgh see’s Letang as a $2.5-$2.75 million per season player. Their not ready to commit that type of money to a player whose offensive potential is a major wildcard.
Letang and Goligoski are not a sure thing to come close to replacing Gonchar’s production the next couple seasons. Goligoski has shown signs to being a 45-50 point player but inconsistency continues to be an issue with him.
Even with the talented likes of Goligoski and Letang, replacing Gonchar would be a daunting task and management knows that.