“I wanted a multi-year deal. I want to stay in Montreal for as long as I can. That’s where I want to win a Stanley Cup.”
Josh Gorges might one day get that multi-year deal. Gorges might get his wish and stay in Montreal for as long as he can. In fact, he might very well one day help bring a Stanley Cup to this city.
But for now, the 26-year-old defenceman from Kelowna, BC, will have to be satisfied with the one-year deal he signed with the Canadiens last Friday; a contract that avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for this Thursday.
Gorges was wearing his heart on his sleeve when he spoke of his new deal, today. But that’s completely keeping with his character.
In the opening days of training camp heading into the 2007-2008 NHL season, I sat down with Josh Gorges. At that time, he talked about how the Canadiens had given him a new lease on his hockey life, after acquiring him from the San Jose Sharks late in the 2006-2007 season, in a deal that sent Craig Rivet to San Jose. Gorges appeared in only seven games with the Habs in ’06-’07, but even then, you got the sense that the Canadiens had acquired a very special young man when Bob Gainey stole Gorges and a draft pick (used to select Max Pacioretty) out from under the nose of Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson.
Gorges appeared in 62 games the following season, and he quickly became a fan favourite as a result of his selfless, hard-working, nose-to-the grindstone work ethic. Three solid seasons later, despite a 2010-2011 campaign that ended prematurely because of knee surgery, Gorges appeared to be headed to long-term job security with the team the city he loves to play in, and the team he loves to play for.
Then, this. A one-year contract.
Hard for Canadiens’ fans not to be disappointed over this turn of events. Harder, still, for Canadiens’ fans to swallow the words of General Manager Pierre Gauthier when he said, after the Gorges’ deal was done: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Josh Gorges for the 2011-12 season. He is a very reliable defenseman for our club. Josh is recovering extremely well from his knee injury that kept him out of the line-up for half of the regular season and the playoffs, and we look forward to seeing him at training camp.”
Well, if he’s recovering so well, and he’s so reliable, and he’s one of the leaders of this club, both on and off the ice (as Gauthier has often said), why only one year?
Why? I’ll tell you why.
Because hockey is a business. Fans fall in love with players. General Managers do not. It’s about balancing the books in this mad-cap, salary-cap world. It’s about looking at the players who are in the pipeline and assessing a team’s needs for the present and the future, while keeping a close eye on the bottom line.
It works both ways. Roman Hamrlik knows hockey is a business. That’s why he elected to sign a two-year deal with the Washington Capitals at a time when the Canadiens were only willing to offer a one-year term. Hamrlik wanted to stay in Montreal. But he didn’t stay here THAT badly.
Which brings us back to Josh Gorges. Habs’ fans looking at this situation through rose-coloured glasses are confident that Gorges will have a fine season with the Canadiens and (here’s where the rose-coloured glasses come in) will be rewarded for his efforts with a long-term deal which will keep him in Montreal.
News flash. Don’t hold your breath. The genie’s out of the bottle, folks, as a result of Gauthier’s decision to limit Gorges’ offer to one-year.
Count me among Josh Gorges’ admirers. But when it comes time for Josh Gorges’ agent to sit down with Gauthier at the end of this season, all bets will be off. Pierre Gauthier will do what he feels is best for his hockey team. And Josh Gorges will do what he feels is best — for Josh Gorges.