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Gonchar makes case to stay with Sens // QMI Agency
By Bruce Garrioch
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sergei Gonchar is a veteran, he can ignore the noise.
With the NHL trade deadline next Monday at 3 p.m. and speculation starting to ramp up, Gonchar told the Sun he hasn’t been approached by anybody in the Ottawa organization about waiving his no-movement clause.
Making $5.5 million in the second season of a three-year, $16.5-million deal, the 37-year-old Gonchar has no desire to play anywhere else.
“I’ve been in the league for a long time. It’s been mentioned more than once,” he said with a smile before the club’s flight here Sunday.
“If you look at the way we played last year, to the way we’re playing this year, we’ve made a huge step forward. We’re making progress pretty much every game and I like the direction that we’re going. This team is going the right way.”
Senators GM Bryan Murray will spend time fielding calls and there’s a lot of teams looking for blue-line help.
The market is set: A second-round pick and a mid-round pick (fourth or fifth) for a pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman.
The Hawks, Wings and Bruins are all looking to add depth on the back end heading into the playoffs. So are the Blues, but they don’t have any money to spend.
Since Gonchar has one year left on his deal, the Senators would probably demand a younger, cheaper defenceman in return.
Erik Karlsson, who’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer, will be in the $5.5-million range on his new contract — or the same as Gonchar is making.
The Senators have major concerns about changing their chemistry by making moves.
Not only was Gonchar brought in to help the club win, he’s here because the Senators want him to mentor Karlsson.
“We have good chemistry and it seems like all the guys are getting along very well,” said Gonchar. “It’s not my decision, but I would say, ‘Yes’ (he’d like to stay).”
Gonchar, who has two goals and 27 assists in 53 games this season, hasn’t scored since Nov. 12 — a 36-game drought going into Monday’s holiday matinee against the New York Islanders.
“(But) he’s been a pretty consistent player,” said coach Paul MacLean. “We’d like to see him have more than (two) goals, but I’ve thought he really does a good job in our end of settling us down and making good exits.
“Our power play, when it’s good, it’s because he’s good. For the most part, he’s been consistent. He’s provided leadership and veteran play in the back end, which is important for the success that we’ve had.”
Gonchar said the way the Senators have played this season reminds him of the Washington Capitals club he played with in 1997. Expectations were low heading into the season, yet they went all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
“Nobody really counted on us to do anything. We lost to Detroit (in the final) but we did well,” said Gonchar. “When we into this season, nobody really counted on us. They didn’t think we were going to make the playoffs.
“We were picked No. 15 in the league. Everybody felt this was going to be one of those years and next year would be the year we’d play better. We’ve surprised everybody and we’ve got a real good chance to make the playoffs.”
Gonchar would like to be part of it.