It became official this morning that defenseman Sergei Gonchar was no longer a Penguin as he signed a contract paying him $5.55 mllion per year for the next three seasons with the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins simply don’t have enough cap space to devote that much money to an aging and injury prone defenseman so when the Senators offered an extra $1 mil per as well as additional year there was absolutely no way that Shero and the Penguins could match.
There was no time for long winded good byes however as the Penguins were pressed for time to find a suitable replacement for Gonchar. Matters appeared to worsen though as contract talks between the Penguins and Hamhuis came to a halt, but Shero quickly gathered himself and set his sights on two of the top defensemen in this years free agency pool. And early this afternoon it became official that ex Phoenix Coyote Zbynek Michalek signed a deal worth $20 million over the next 5 years with the Pens. And no more than an hour after the deal with Michalek was announced, it became official that the Pens also agreed to a 5 year $25 million deal with ex New Jersey Devil Paul Martin.
Simply put, The Pens hit it big. We are a mere 12 hours in to the start of free agency and they were able to sign two of the top defensemen available this offseason to long term deals. Granted, these signings swallow up most of the money the team had to spend, but more importantly, they will ensure that the Penguin defense, which has been radically inconsistent over the last few years, will have a strong base in which to build upon for the next several years.
I can hear the complaints already though, “What about that goal scoring winger we needed?”. To those fans, I say “zip it”. Just ask the Washington Capitals, it’s not always about scoring goals. Sometimes you just have to be able to stop teams, and it looks like the Penguins have just taken a HUGE step forward towards doing so.
Catch Note: Surprise to see Hamhuis signed for less than Martin…I wonder what we offered and how steep his hometown discount was.