One of the more interesting restricted free agents for the Habs this
offseason is defenceman Josh Gorges. He is the quintessential glue guy,
good in the room and good on the ice though he plays a relatively quiet style of
play. He is, however, coming off a significant knee injury which further
complicates trying to determine the term and dollar value of his next contract.
With Gorges, you’re not paying for his offence which helps to keep the cost
down; uni-dimensional defensive defenceman generally can’t command a huge
contract. Before his injury, he often was towards the top of the
leaderboard for blocked shots and as teams have shown in the past, those types
of niche players can get multi year deals. Current Hab Brent Sopel (cap
hit of $2.33 million) is an example of that.
Unlike Sopel though, Gorges is a pending restricted free agent, one year away
from being eligible to become unrestricted. He also has arbitration rights
which, if exercised, would only be for 1 year. However, despite this and
the knee injury, I firmly believe both sides are looking to get a multi year
pact done so for the purposes of trying to find contract comparables, I’m only
going to look at multi year deals. Some will seem too high, others too low;
the goal is to try and find the middle ground and use that to project his value.
Daniel Girardi – New York R.
The undrafted (like Gorges) blueliner led the NHL in blocks this year for the
Rangers. Also like Gorges, he signed his current deal a year prior to
unrestricted free agency. Although he does bring more of an offensive
attack to the table, his current cap hit of $3.1 million likely would serve as a
benchmark of sorts with the expected rise in the salary cap.
Jan Hejda – Columbus
I honestly think he is one of the best comparables available out there in
terms of style of play. As it stands, he is coming off a $2 million deal
(3 years) and will be unrestricted this offseason. So why is he here
without a contract to compare to? If the contract talks extend into
July/August, I wouldn’t be surprised to see whatever he winds up getting being
somewhat of a benchmark (adjusted slightly given Gorges’ RFA status though).
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Chicago
Hjalmarsson has been one of Chicago’s unsung heroes over the years by playing
sound defensively. Like Gorges, his offensive game is mostly non-existent.
He caught the notice of quite a few teams in the 2009-10 playoffs to the extent
where he received an offer sheet from the Sharks. His contract is for $3.5
million (4 years). Obviously that’s higher than Gorges’ value now but if
he were for some reason to sign an offer sheet, this is the range it would most
likely be in.
Roman Polak – St. Louis
Polak has been one of the league’s better kept secrets as he plays a very
similar styled game to Gorges. He plays a safe game and does whatever it
takes to help the team whether it involves playing physical, blocking shots, or
pitching in offensively here and there (the latter part more frequently than the
Montreal blueliner). He also happened to be in a comparable situation
contract wise, as both had identical cap hits of $1.1 million this past season.
Recently, Polak signed a 5 year extension worth an average of $2.75 million.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – San Jose
Interestingly enough, he was one of the beneficiaries when Gorges was dealt
to the Habs as his ice time got a nice jump after the move. The defensive
intangibles he brings are similar to the Habs’ blueliner but Vlasic does have a
bit more offensive upside, or at least he did in his last contract year. Vlasic
is currently in the middle of a 4 year deal that pays him an average of $3.1
million per year, however, it only buys out RFA years which isn’t the case with
So, where does his value lie? The guessing on the
HW message board so far has been widely spread, ranging from $2.25 to $3.5
million. I feel his contract will also fall within this range but closer
to starting with a 3. Like Andrei Markov, I take Gorges at face value when
he says he really wants to stay long term and I even think he’ll take a bit of a
hometown discount on a long-term deal. Therefore, I’m going to guess his
contract will fall somewhere between $2.8 and $3.15 million on a multi year
pact. If the arbitration route winds up being taken, I would expect to see
his cap hit a little lower as no UFA years would be bought out.