Did you hear the one about how the Stars like to acquire old players? Or the one about the Stars running a hospice? Maybe you heard the one about the Stars having a weird fetish for acquiring only old players during a rebuild?
No? Well, they did it again yesterday in their latest efforts to aid internet comedy. The Stars acquired the 39 year old Sergei Gonchar's in exchange for a sixth round pick and quickly signed him to a two year deal at five million per season.
The biggest concerns with Gonchar are his age and his defense. Neither attribute screams "acquire me", As a 39 year old Gonchar is slowing down some. He has never been a reliable defensive player, but as he continues to lose speed it would become increasingly difficult for Gonchar to cover for his mistakes.
Over the past three years Gonchar has been used essentially the same way. He predominantly gets his ice time in the offensive zone against so-so competition. The Senators don't appear to have tried to protect Gonchar so much as give him plentiful opportunities to get in the offensive zone.
The Senators threw Gonchar on the ice for some penalty kill time too. It wasn't much, but he still did see the ice when the Sens were shorthanded for roughly a full penalty kill per game the past three seasons.
It's important to remember that speed isn't necessarily the most important skill for a penalty killer. That is especially true for a penalty killing defender. He hasn't been a particularly great penalty killer though so it would seem that Gonchar will be, at best, a secondary penalty killing option. If that. Last year with Gonchar on the ice the Senators allowed 51.6 shots/60. Of all defensemen that saw at least two minutes on the PK last year only nine gave up more shots.
(Unfortunately Brenden Dillon gave up the 2nd most in the NHL.)
For Gonchar to provide value for the Stars he is going to have to make an impact on the powerplay. At even strength Gonchar hasn't been a positive Corsi player relative to his teammates since the 2010 season with Pittsburgh. He hasn't been well below his teammates, but he hasn't generated extra value compared to them, and this is while playing on some Senators teams that were less than impressive.
The Stars will be counting on Gonchar to be a top four defenseman after giving him five million per year. He might not be that anymore at even strength, but he will be one of the Stars top four defenders if he is able to generate serious value on the powerplay.
Ideally Gonchar will be put in a position to generate offense at even strength with little defensive responsibility. An ideal partner if that is the goal would be Alex Goligoski. The two previously played together in Pittsburgh. They shared the ice for 100 minutes in 2010. You could see them together again in the very near future.
Five million per may seem like an overpay, but the Stars have a ton of cap room. The move also suggests more moves are coming that will likely free up money or at least redistribute money spent on a defender to pay for a forward. The Stars can easily afford the cap hit, so why not?