Pittsburgh Penguins Bring Back Defenseman Sergei Gonchar

By Larry Snyder

The Pittsburgh Penguins disclosed Friday that they signed veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a professional tryout contract. Gonchar, 41, spent five seasons with the Black and Gold from 2005-2010.

The first time that Pittsburgh enlisted the 6-foot-2, 210-pound free agent was Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005. He was one of the prime components in helping the team capture its third Stanley Cup in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings. He supplied three goals and 11 assists in 22 contests over the course of the 2009 playoffs. Gonchar skated with the Pens for their Cup Final appearance against the Red and White back in 2008.

The Chelyabinsk, Russia native remains the sixth-highest scoring defensman in the history of the Penguins. He contributed a total of 54 goals, 205 assists and 259 points in 322 regular-season contests. Of his 54 goals, 37 came on the power play. Gonchar added seven goals and 37 assists for 44 points in 60 playoff games. Larry Murphy and Kris Letang are the two defensemen who are ahead of him for more postseason points in club history.

It was the Washington Capitals who drafted Gonchar in the first round of the 1992 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He was the 14th selection overall. He has played 1,301 career NHL contests with Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Dallas and Montreal. Gonchar contributed 220 goals and 591 assists for 811 points. Those 811 points make him the leader among all active NHL defensemen.

The writers at NHL.com reported this June that Gonchar had said to TVA Sports that he wanted to participate in one more NHL season. He started last season with the Dallas Stars before spending a majority of it in Montreal with the Canadiens. He put up one goal and 13 assists for 14 points in 48 match-ups.

There are three questions, in my opinion, to consider if he makes the roster.

1) Can Gonchar handle the grind of the long NHL regular season? What will he be able to contribute in the spring during the Stanley Cup playoffs?

2) Does this team need another aging member on the blueline crew after Rob Scuderi?

3) Whose minutes from among Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Derrick Pouliot, for example, are you going to pull from to put him on the ice?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.