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Gonchar or Staal??

ESPN reporter John Buccigross lets you vent about your favorite NHL team. In Wednesday’s mailbag, Bucci addressed the issue of if the Pittsburgh Penguins will be able to keep star defenseman Sergei Gonchar with regards to cap space. Bucci had many options that would make it easier for the Pens to keep Gonch, and there was only one that rubbed me the wrong way.

“Trading Jordan Staal will always be an option, but Staal is a big-game player, and you don’t trade young, big-game players.” Bucci said.

That’s right. You don’t. Now I understand Bucci said it was an option and not a very good one, and one you shouldn’t do. I’ll give him credit for that. But let me tell you exactly why it would be a terrible idea to trade away a forward like Staal to keep Gonchar.

Staal is outstanding on the penalty kill. Its like that kid lives for short handed goals. He’s one of, if not the best, the team has in that area. He also averages 3:14 in ice time while short handed, the most on the team. Sure, they have superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that could fill that void if they sent away Staal, but there’s a reason they rest on the bench during the kill most of the time.  Just like there was a reason Ray Shero decided to lock up Staal until the 2013-2014 season.

Staal has 21 goals and 27 points this season putting him above every player  except Crosby, Malkin, and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who they picked up at the trade deadline (since coming to the Penguins hes 2 goals and 7 assists) from Toronto. Staal regularly averages 41 points a season and is the second best at winning the face off.

Gonchar  is arguably one of their best defenseman. Like the Pens recently noticed with Malkin as well, there is a huge difference in how the game pans out without Gonchar in the line up. And he’s is out of that line up quite a bit. He missed all but 25 regular season games last year and has been in and out of the line up this season. He is going to be 36 in just a couple of weeks and it seems he is unhealthy more often than he’s healthy these days. Though he has recorded 44 points in almost half as many games as everyone else the Penguins need their third highest paid player to be healthy for more than 25-58 games a season.

So what other options to the Pens have if they want to keep Gonchar? Bucci also suggested that Bill Guerin may take a pay cut from his 2 million a year, to maybe 1 million a year, if he chooses not to retire. They could also try to trade away Eric Godard for a draft pick, Godard currently makes around 750K and hasn’t played since January. When he does play, he doesn’t produce much anyhow. Matt Cooke could also take a pay cut if he wants to come back next season. He will be a UFA, and with all the drama surrounding the Marc Savard incident, staying with the Penguins organization may be his best shot at continuing his career in the NHL.

And who knows, Hockey Canada Glenn Healy reported that we could see a rise in the salary cap. A rise totaling around 1% (900K) and if that’s the case, signing Gonchar may not be as big of an issue but we won’t know until the final revenues are calculated after the playoffs. If it goes down…well Gonchar may not be the Pen’s only problem.

Categories: Eastern Conference, NHL
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