306-gonchar-100701

Sergei Gonchar has reached the 50-point plateau nine times in his NHL career. ((Justin K. Aller/Getty Images))

The Ottawa Senators made the first big splash in NHL free agency Thursday, luring high-scoring defenceman Sergei Gonchar with a three-year deal.

The contract is worth $16 million US, and TSN reported that it includes a no-trade clause.

Word of the deal came just minutes after the noon ET start of the NHL's free-agent signing period.

"It adds a great deal to our team — back-end mobility, the point on the power play," said Senators GM Bryan Murray. "That's how you win games in the league now. He was our No. 1 guy."

Gonchar, 36, spent the last five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2009. He has also played for Boston and Washington.

Last season, Gonchar had 50 points (11 goals) in 62 games. It was the ninth time the Russian reached the 50-point plateau.

"I'm very happy to be there because I'm going to play in Canada, which is pretty special for me," Gonchar said. "I believe Ottawa has a pretty good team. … We played against them last year in the playoffs and it's not easy to play against that team."

Pittsburgh moved quickly to replace Gonchar, signing stay-at-home defenceman Zbynek Michalek away from Phoenix with a four-year $20-million deal.

After losing Anton Volchenkov, who signed with the New Jersey Devils as an unrestricted free agent, and not re-signing Andy Sutton, Ottawa had a void on its blue-line. In signing Gonchar, the team gains one of the league's best offensive defencemen. 

"From a coach's perspective, I'm very excited," Senators coach Cory Clouston said. "Bryan mentioned that we put together a list of players that we could potentially go after and (Gonchar), obviously, was on the top of our list.

"I think he adds a lot to our club. We're sad to see Anton go, but we have to turn a page."

Ottawa also re-signed forward Jesse Winchester to a two-year deal on Thursday. Financial details of the deal were not immediately available.

With files from The Canadian Press