When word leaked that the Habs were aggressively trying to move Josh Gorges
before July 1st, many expected they were targeting a replacement in free agency.
As it turns out, that replacement was Tom Gilbert who signed mere minutes after
Gorges was dealt to Buffalo. Are the Habs better off after this swap of
second pair blueliners or would they have been better off keeping what they
Alex Létourneau: This is a tough one. I was sure Josh Gorges
would be the next captain in Montreal. I hated the way he left while still
graciously accepting his final gift as a Hab by flat out refusing to play in
Toronto. The only thing that could make sense here is that Bergevin’s projecting
a big drop off in his play. We’ve all seen the kind of minutes Gorges has logged
during his time in Montreal, and they’ve been the hardest minutes anyone on the
team has put in. He played seven seasons with one functioning knee.
Tom Gilbert simply does not offer the kind of hard minutes Gorges logged. He
does offer more offensive upside on a second defensive pairing and is still able
to play against top-six forwards. The Mike Weaver signing is likely there to
offset Gorges’ departure so that frees up Gilbert to not be seen a fully fledged
replacement for the departing Gorges.
Bottom line, I like Gilbert and thought before the frenzy that he was one to
look out for, but I didn’t see Gorges as being traded to make room. Gorges did
look a little sluggish at times during the playoffs, but that’s expected from a
guy who puts in the kind of minutes he’s expected to play. Speaking of playoffs,
the 31-year-old Gilbert has five games of NHL playoff experience. I hope Gilbert
does well but give me Gorges any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
Brian La Rose: I’m a bit torn on this one. While I felt
that Gorges’ contract wasn’t ideal, I’m not overly thrilled about replacing him
with more of an offensive player in Gilbert. There’s always room for an
old school stay-at-home blueliner on my team and that’s what Gorges provided for
the Habs for a long time.
Gilbert does, however, bring some intriguing intangibles to the team,
particularly his skating. With the exception of P.K. Subban, Montreal
doesn’t have the most mobile of defence corps and as we saw in the playoffs,
quick opponents can exploit that. The fact that Gilbert can spell Subban a
bit on the powerplay (so that the top unit isn’t playing close to the full two
minutes which isn’t smart when your top defenders are over 25 minutes a game) is
also a plus.
At the end of the day, this is more or less changing one set of strengths and
weaknesses for another. Given that Gilbert is cheaper, has a shorter term
contract, and that they added a second rounder in the Gorges trade, it’s a small
victory for the Habs. What I don’t understand though is why they had to
move Gorges so quickly. It’s not as if Montreal is anywhere near the
offseason cap (10% above the actual upper limit), they easily could have waited
to see if there were teams that struck out in free agency that would pay up to
add a veteran like Gorges. This didn’t have to be rushed like it was.
Kevin Meldrum: I like Tom Gilbert; he has good size with good
mobility, adds a missing element on the PP, and brings a variety of offensive
options with a cheaper cap hit and shorter term than Gorges. I loved Gorges’
heart and battle skills but this was the better option for the team but you have
to feel bad for Josh because he really wanted to stay. Also, adding another 2nd
round pick in a very deep draft makes this a very important smart hockey move.
Norm Szcyrek: I am ecstatic about the Habs getting Tom Gilbert,
especially at the expense of Josh Gorges, for a couple of reasons. Gilbert is
more of a true #3/4 defenceman on most NHL teams. He’s able to move the puck
very well and can handle a regular role on the 2nd wave of the powerplay. These
are roles that Gorges was not able to do at all. The Habs management realized
this after the last 1 1/2 seasons, and since they did not sign him to the
inflated $3.9M contract, they discovered they would be better off moving him.
The move certainly frees up a spot for a young player like Tinordi or Beaulieu
on the left side, and allows other veterans to shuffle to fit better into their
natural positions too.
While Gorges was a heart and soul guy for the Habs and it was unfortunate
that the Habs had to convince him to waive his no-trade clause to allow the
trade to Buffalo, I will give him credit for nixing the trade to arch-rival
Toronto. If Gorges is slotted into his best #5/6 role for the Sabres, then he
should flourish for them. Having said this, I hope this means that the coaches
will reunite Markov and Subban for the first pairing, and allow Gilbert to play
with Emelin on the 2nd pairing.