The overwhelming response from fans with regards to the recently signed one
year, $2.5 million contract for Josh Gorges has been that it should have been a
long-term deal. Though I can’t entirely disagree with some of the
rationale for those arguments, there are other reasons why going short-term was
the way to go here even if it wasn’t the most popular route to take.
We all know that Gorges had played the last several years without an ACL and
now that he has one, there is some upside with regards to his skating.
We’ve also seen first hand that players who have a long-term knee injury seem
more susceptible to having a repeat occurrence of it (hello, Andrei Markov).
Gorges’ style of play only makes me more worried about a recurrence, blocking
shots off the knees while dropping frequently at often awkward angles won’t
exactly improve the chances of it not happening again. That isn’t to say
he should change his style, but that risk has to be considered. Thus, I
don’t think anyone at this point can summarily state that he’s fine and they
have nothing to worry about with regards to injury.
Speaking of Markov, I don’t think his deal helped Gorges with his case.
Locking up two players coming off significant injuries is most certainly a risk.
Given that Markov has been the top defenceman on the Habs for a long time, he
got the first crack at a long-term contract and took it. I don’t think the
Habs only focused on a one year term here, but it doesn’t seem like they tried
all that hard to go multi-year based on the noticeably late start to the
negotiations (which only started after Gorges filed for arbitration and thus a
one year pact).
Of course, any good discussion about a contract has to involve the salary
cap. It’s higher now, but I’ve gone on record before saying that I expect
that with a new CBA, it will go down. It may not be a lot, but I think
either the NHLPA will lose the 5% annual escalator or they’ll lose a percent or
two of HRR (hockey-related revenues) which should send the cap downward a bit.
What his market value is based on this offseason’s spending would go down as a
result. There’s also the contracts of Carey Price and P.K. Subban, both of
which will likely get substantial raises next summer. Having a little more
flexibility can go a long way. (And before anyone suggests that the
expiring deals of Jaroslav Spacek, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Travis Moen will be
enough to offset their raises, do bear in mind that comparable replacements have
to be found for those players as well.)
As easy as it is to say that points don’t matter for defensive defencemen,
the truth is, they do to some degree. A few years back, we saw perennially
low point getters like Scott Hannan, Robyn Regehr, and Mike Komisarek get big
bucks ($4+ million) in their UFA years. Nowadays, that’s not happening,
even with the higher cap and some of the curious contracts signed in the last
few weeks. Consider that Gorges has surpassed the double digit mark in
points once in his career, that’s not going to help him. Points surely
aren’t a fair way to judge what he brings to the table, but when you’re a GM and
you’re looking at signing a guy like Gorges long term, seeing that lack of
offensive production will work against him, even if it only is a little bit.
I’m probably stretching this a bit but the increased and improved
organizational young depth on the blueline also could have been a feather in
Pierre Gauthier’s negotiating cap. Today, most would agree that Subban,
along with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu will comprise part of a young
blueline within the next 3-4 years. Now, add in the likes of Yannick
Weber, Alexei Yemelin, and Raphael Diaz. If even two of the three amount
to much of anything (you could argue Weber already has), then they’re down to
one or two spots left on the blueline for veterans. Gorges could be one of
those guys, but they may be looking for more complementary veterans to mentor
the youngsters (much like Hal Gill has done for Subban). Considering
Gorges would be in his late 20’s at the time, that may not be the ideal role for
him. As I said, this one is a bit of a stretch in terms of how much it
impacted these negotiations but you’d have to assume this is the ‘perfect world
scenario’ for the defence moving forward.
As a fan, would I have given Gorges a three year deal? Probably, unless
the money demands were that outrageous. Lots can happen between now and
then in terms of trading opportunities and there’s no guarantee that the perfect
world scenario referenced above will come to fruition. But I can see the
rationale behind pursuing the shorter term deal with him even though some good
arguments can be made for a long-term pact. I’m also not convinced this
means he’s leaving for sure next offseason. Let’s not forget what happened
to the last Hab who filed for arbitration a year before he was unrestricted and
settled before the hearing. That player (Tomas Plekanec) wound up signing
the longest contract in the history of the franchise. That might not
happen again with Gorges but if the Habs want him long-term, they’ll get
something done next year.