Sergei Gonchar may be in the latter stages of his NHL career, but he proved this past season he can still be a valuable fantasy contributor when given a prominent offensive role.
His new two-year contract with the Dallas Stars, which was made official Monday after the Ottawa Senators traded his rights last Friday, indicates he could be quarterbacking the team's first power-play unit once next season rolls around.
If Gonchar transitions well, he's likely to remain valuable and under the radar from a fantasy standpoint entering 2013-14. With Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson sidelined in February, the 39-year-old stepped into his teammate's role and proved he can still make a difference. Gonchar kept the team afloat in the playoff race and even set a franchise record with at least one assist in 10 consecutive games (Mar. 3 to Mar. 23). He also led all Ottawa skaters with 12 power-play points in the regular season.
With Karlsson back in the fold for the playoffs, Gonchar remained effective with six assists in 10 postseason games as the Senators advanced to the second round. All in all, the shortened season marked his best fantasy campaign since 2009-10 when he posted a near 50-point, 50-PIM season for the Pittsburgh Penguins with 138 shots on goal.
He brings valuable experience and savvy to a Stars team that has been competitive in each of the last three seasons before falling short of a playoff berth. Only four defensemen (Kris Letang, Ryan Suter, P.K. Subban, Cody Franson) had more regular season assists than Gonchar (24) in 2012-13. His move to Dallas could negatively impact Alex Goligoski, the team's leading scorer on the blue line this past season, but it could also facilitate an offense led by talented young forwards Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.
There's still a full offseason ahead for the Stars, but the addition of the NHL's active leader in points (775) and power-play goals (101) among defenseman should pay dividends for Dallas on both ends of the ice. Gonchar is a skilled distributor that can serve as a mentor for young defensemen like Brenden Dillon and Jamie Oleksiak and also add depth on the back end for a team that tied for the 6th-worst goals allowed per game average (2.94) in the NHL in 2012-13.
Gonchar finished the season as the 30th-ranked fantasy defenseman in Brian Metzer's year-end "On the 'D'-Fence" column (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=667361), but owners should not hesitate to target him with a mid-to-late round selection in fantasy drafts next fall.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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