It took a little longer than he would have liked, but Josh Gorges
finally got what he wanted all along.
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.
Defense - MTL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 10
SOG: 28 | +/-: 6
When Gorges signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract last July 22, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing scheduled six days later, it was difficult for him to hide his disappointment in the short-term nature of the deal. Gorges was completing his re-habilitation from season-ending surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus last January when contract talks began, and Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier had said the uncertainty on the defenseman’s health was a factor in limiting the contract to one season.
"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.
Moments that defined hockey in 2011
Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer
From championships to racing goalies, NHL.com looks at 24 moments that shaped the world of hockey in 2011. READ MORE ›
"I go out there and do my job," Gorges said in July. "My job is to go out there and play as hard as I can and do the best I can to help the team win. At the end of the day it's up to the team to decide what I'm worth and how long they want to keep me around and all those types of things. I think they thought it was best to do a one-year this year and we re-evaluate things throughout the course of the year or at the end of the season, whenever they see fit."
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.