As rumored and written about just yesterday, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges has been traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick in the 2016 draft. The shock waves are still in full swing in Montreal.
As free-agent frenzy began its crazed pace early on, the news broke that this deal was made. Suffice it to say, fan reaction was explosive. As was expected, many fans bristled at the lack of loyalty shown to a player who had demonstrated his own loyalty to the team he represented. Many also questioned the terms of the deal.
It’s one thing to want to trade a player to free up cap space; every team is doing so, and every team wants the most “bang for the buck” in the coming season. But Gorges is a top-notch, strong performer on the ice, a leader on and off the ice and is worth a lot more than a second-round pick in two years’ time.
In fact, it was revealed that the Toronto Maple Leafs had offered Habs general manager Marc Bergevin two players and a draft pick, but Gorges turned it down. This, of course, was reported after the trade was completed with Buffalo and confirmed by Bob McKenzie, a respected source for hockey-related news in the league.
Gorges was interviewed shortly after the trade was announced. What he said opened eyes as he spoke. Asked directly about his turning down the Toronto offer, he told Sports Net that having played in Montreal for so long, he could not fathom playing for one of the Habs’ biggest rivals. His words: “I’ve grown to hate this team. To play against them, how could I really go and put my heart and soul into it?”
This kind of honesty is refreshing and definitely not common to hear. He said it would have been the same thing had the Boston Bruins made an offer. The rivalries are strong, the feelings transcend the scoreboard and he could not foresee himself playing against the Habs in those uniforms.
Add “forthcoming” to the list of virtues previously attributed to Gorges.
Now the trade itself dropped jaws, but no sooner was it announced than the Habs signed defenseman Tom Gilbert to a deal. Coming from the Florida Panthers, Gilbert’s stats are impressive. On paper, he is two goals and 12 assists ahead of Gorges, known to be strong on the power play and a have good shot. Though the proof always comes when chemistry, venue and performance are weighed, he is a good pickup for the Habs for less than what Gorges was making.
The Habs also signed defenseman Mike Weaver to a one-year contract. That’s welcome news for Habs fans who embraced Weaver’s toughness and performance when he was acquired at the trade deadline in March. He shows heart and talent and has already tweeted that he is pleased to be back with the club.
We all know this is prelude and preparation for a P.K. Subban mega-contract. When the frenzy dies down, Mr. Bergevin, please start the summer with that to-do checked off every fan’s list?