Gonchar talks put off until end of season

| Monday, March 1, 2010

The Penguins and defenseman Sergei Gonchar aren't close on a contract extension, and talks between general manager Ray Shero and agent JP Barry won't resume until after the season.

Barry said Sunday he met with Shero in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the Olympics, and "offers that would be acceptable to us over two different terms" were provided to the Penguins.

"Ray explained ... they are not in a position to counter at this juncture," Barry said. "We both agreed that it is again time to focus on the performance of the team. Sergei does not want his contractual status to be any kind of distraction as the team tries to defend the Cup.

"Our negotiations will thus be put on hiatus until the end of the season."

Gonchar, 35, is in the final year of a deal that counts $5 million against the salary cap. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Penguins have only two NHL defensemen under contract for next season.

Busy day

A manic Monday on the trade front in the NHL wouldn't surprise Shero, who said yesterday that he "certainly expects some deals to be made (today) and Tuesday" as the league runs up to its trade deadline at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Teams were permitted to resume player movement at midnight after not being afforded that opportunity dating to Feb. 12 -- basically, during the Olympic break -- because an agreement between the NHL and its Players Association.

Still, Shero was one of many general managers who took advantage of a two-week stretch to discuss possible trades.

"The last few days, I've been in touch with a lot of teams, just trying to keep in touch," he said, declining to divulge details. "From talking to teams, they seem to be telling me to do something (today). Whether that's the 'hurry up and make your best offer' thing, I don't know, but that's what you're hearing."

The Penguins, who are about $700,000 under the $56.8 million salary cap, may look to add a stay-at-home defenseman. But Shero, who has made deals at the deadline in his first three seasons, has said he is confident in his current squad.

Welcome back

Coach Dan Bylsma suggested he is most concerned about mental fatigue for returning Olympians, including center Evgeni Malkin an Gonchar -- even though they haven't played since Team Russia was eliminated last Wednesday.

"They've had a lot added to their workload already this year," Bylsma said.

Malkin and Gonchar, who returned to Pittsburgh on separate flights, are expected to practice today. The Penguins play Buffalo at home on Tuesday night.

Around the boards

Forwards Max Talbot (groin) and Ruslan Fedotenko (lower-body injury/undisclosed) will be possibilities to play Tuesday. Talbot practiced yesterday, and Bylsma said Fedotenko will take the ice today. ... Bylsma's expectation of the USA-Canada Olympic gold-medal game: On the dry-erase board upon which he displays the daily schedule, he wrote "cage match" next to the 3 p.m. time slot.

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