NHL NEWS CATCHUP: Stars acquire Gonchar; Andy McDonald, Andy Sutton retire; Hemsky and Horcoff available.

With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, some other news stories from the NHL have gotten lost in the flood.

DALLAS STARS ACQUIRE SERGEI GONCHAR

With veteran star defenceman Sergei Gonchar rapidly approaching unrestricted free agency and re-signing him unlikely, the Ottawa Senators decided to see if they could something in return.  As such, they traded him to the Dallas Stars for a conditional 6th round draft pick – the condition being that he re-signed in Dallas.

Rumours were abound that Gonchar, 39, had received offers from the KHL, but the Stars managed to re-sign him to a 2 year, $10m deal.  This may sound expensive for a 39 year old, but Gonchar has proven to still be an extremely valuable player.  He’s capable defensively and still is a top powerplay option.  Whilst it’ll be interesting to see if this contract proves to be an overpay, the Stars haven’t done so badly the last couple of years with veterans, with the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney both being top performers for the team.

ANDY MCDONALD RETIRES

The first of two unfortunate cases in this article, Andy McDonald of the St Louis Blues has decided to retire at the age of 35 due to concussion issues.  McDonald has been a member of the Blues since 2007, and has generally been a highly productive player for the team with 230 points in 294 games, good for 32nd on their all-time list.

McDonald was originally signed by the Anaheim Ducks in 2000 after a standout career in the NCAA.  Fast and skilled, he proved to be a pretty productive secondary scorer for the Ducks.  However, it was after the 2004/05 lockout that his production sky-rocketed, putting up 85 points and 78 points in 05/06 and 06/07 respectively.  He was a major component of the 2007 Ducks team that blasted their way to the Stanley Cup, with 10 goals in 21 playoff games that Spring.

The following year he was traded to the Blues, and whilst he didn’t recapture the magic he had with the Ducks, he was still a highly productive player when healthy.  It’s a damn shame that a player as talented as McDonald had to retire at the relatively young age of 35; were it not for his injuries I would be willing to bet he’d be closer to 1000 career points than 500.

All the best to McDonald, one of the best NCAA free agent signings in NHL history, and hopefully he manages to fully recover from the dreadful effects of concussions.

ANDY SUTTON RETIRES

The second player forced to retire before his time is Andy Sutton, the mammoth-sized defenceman most recently of the Edmonton Oilers.  Also a former NCAA recruit, this time by the San Jose Sharks in 1998, Sutton was something of a journeyman in his career, but really made his name as a quality defensive defender with an extreme mean-streak with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2001 to 2007.  After stops in Long Island, Ottawa and Anaheim, Sutton was traded to Edmonton in 2011 where he was to play what would end up being the last season of his career.

Edmonton fans quickly came to love the giant defenceman, who was competent defensively, a monster of a hitter, and had surprising offensive skills, as well as being a leader and popular with his peers with a wicked sense of humour.  He actually re-signed to play with the team for the 2012-13 season, but unfortunately a knee injury during off-season training kept him out for the year.  He had suffered from knee injuries for years, and unfortunately his body just wasn’t up to the task any more.

At the age of 38, Andy Sutton announced his decision to retire from the league.  676 games with 150 points is an excellent career for a 3rd pairing defenceman, and he’ll be missed.

HEMSKY AND HORCOFF ON THE WAY OUT?

In what has become known already as the Summer of MacTavish in Edmonton, the latest news is that long-time Oilers Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky will likely not be with the team come the 2013/14 season.  For Horcoff, this is somewhat surprising, but for Hemsky it is less so.

MacTavish acknowledged that they have both been fine Oilers — they have — but that both have suffered from playing on an awful team for so long that their hearts just aren’t completely in it anymore.  That shouldn’t be any slight against the players, they have given their all for years, but a new direction should help both team and player.  However, the moves should only be made if there are comparable replacements, or even upgrades, to take their spots.

I won’t get into a full review of their Oiler careers here, that’ll come when and if they actually leave, but suffice to say their departures will be cheered and booed in equal measure.  Horcoff is a highly capable third line centre, whose cap hit clouds that fact, and Hemsky is one of the most skilled players in the league who managed to be one of the best right-wingers in the NHL for several years but with most still regarding him as not reaching his full potential.  Both are past their primes, but are still extremely capable secondary NHLers and hopefully they find success with whoever takes them on.

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