According to league contacts, Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar is expected to draw heavy interest on the free agent market. It is widely believed that Gonchar will be a top target of contenders in the market for a puck moving defenseman and borderline playoff contenders.
Gonchar, 36, is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1.
Gonchar’s return to Pittsburgh can be categorized as 50-50 at this point due to talks between Pens GM Ray Shero and J.P. Barry the agent for Sergei Gonchar not being established yet. However, in reality the odds are believed to be much lower.
Talk around the league is that it appears likely that Gonchar will explore his options in free agency first before making a decision on returning to Pittsburgh.
Teams around the league are finalizing their free agency plans and despite his age, Gonchar is viewed as one of the most intriguing blueliners that could hit the market on July 1.
Gonchar will likely be on the radar of contenders (2010 playoff teams) Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, and Los Angeles Kings. All three teams along with the Buffalo Sabres are believed to be in the market for a puck moving defenseman.
Non-playoff teams actively seeking a top flight puck moving defenseman include the Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets. I continue to hear Gonchar is at the top of new Panthers GM Dale Tallon’s wishlist.
Tallon is expected to be among the most aggressive GM’s at the draft and in free agency. Looking to bolster one of the leagues worst power plays (14.2%), Gonchar and Tomas Kaberle (trade) are expected to be top targets.
More Pens UFA Rumblings
*Rich Curran the agent for Alexei Ponikarovsky and Pens GM Ray Shero have agreed to begin preliminary discussions next week.
The two sides spoke briefly following the Penguins exit in the playoffs but have to engaged in official contract talks.
Despite Ponikarovsky being a major disappointment, the Penguins I’m told remain very open to retaining the 6-foot-4, 220 pound winger.
Ponikarovsky is seeking a multi-year deal in the 3-to-4 year range.
*The Penguins informed Allan Walsh the agent for Ruslan Fedotenko weeks ago that the team has no interest in retaining his client.
Fedotenko declined multi-year deals from the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild last summer to take a one year deal from the Penguins in attempt to increase his market value for this summer.
The plan didn’t work out. Fedotenko I’m told is drawing interest from the KHL but only has his sights set on playing in the NHL.