The Montreal Canadiens announced a new six-year contract extension for Gorges on Sunday, a deal reportedly worth $3.9 million per season.
It is a huge reward for an undrafted player who’s had to prove himself over and over again throughout his seven-season career, one that has seen Gorges emerge as a team leader and top shutdown defender for the Canadiens.
SOG: 28 | +/-: 6
"I wanted a multi-year deal," Gorges said shortly after signing that contract. "I've said it right from the start, I'll say it today and I'll say it to anyone who asks that I want to stay in Montreal as long as I can. It feels like home to me, I've been there long enough that I really enjoy my time there. I enjoy the team, I enjoy the organization and I enjoy the fans. That's where I want to be, that's where I want to win a Stanley Cup. So I wanted to get as many years as I could."
Just over five months later, Gorges got just that.
The six-year contract means Gorges will not hit the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, and it also represents a shift in policy for a team that refused to conduct any contract negotiations during the season, with very few exceptions. Gorges became one of those exceptions Sunday, the very first day he was eligible to sign a contract extension with the club.
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Perhaps a reason that Gauthier saw fit to do this as soon as possible is that Gorges' value to the Canadiens is immense. He regularly faces opposing teams' top lines, he plays heavy minutes on the penalty kill (10th in the NHL in shorthanded time on ice per game) and makes life a little easier for his good buddy Carey Price by blocking a ton of shots, leading the NHL with 101 thus far this season.
Off the ice, Gorges emerged as a leader for the Canadiens during the 2010 playoffs, when he was paired with Hal Gill to form an effective shutdown unit that managed to stifle Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in seven-game playoff victories over the Capitals and Penguins. Then-coach Jacques Martin included Gorges in his hand-picked leadership group that he consulted with regularly throughout that playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final.
In a media-saturated city like Montreal, the role Gorges plays in speaking with reporters cannot be undervalued either, particularly during a season where the Canadiens sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and their legions of fans are looking for answers as to why that is. Gorges is almost always available to attempt to explain things, at the same time showing everyone just how hard he is taking the Canadiens struggles this season.
The $3.9 million annual price tag on Gorges' contract brings the Canadiens payroll for 2012-13 to $47.4 million with just 13 players under contract, according to CapGeek.com. In the past month, Gauthier has added $8.15 million to that payroll figure by signing Gorges and acquiring defenseman Tomas Kaberle and his $4.25 million cap hit for impending free agent Jaroslav Spacek.
This summer, the Canadiens will have to decide whether they can afford impending unrestricted free agent Andrei Kostitsyn and – most importantly – Price.
Price will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 1, and while it is impossible to know what kind of deal he may be seeking it will assuredly be far more expensive than his current $2.75 million cap hit.
Defensemen P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz and center Lars Eller will all be restricted free agents as well this summer.