Canadiens Sign Josh Gorges To Six-Year Contract Extension

 

Josh Gorges' belated Christmas gift finally arrived on New Year's day, as the Canadiens' defenseman signed a six-year contract extension.

The deal will pay the Kelowna, British Columbia native $23.4 million, or an average of $3.9 million a year through the 2017-18 season. Gorges signs this deal after somewhat of a controversy over the summer, after Gorges and his agent, Kevin Epp, filed for arbitration only to sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 million mere days before the hearing.

While considered fair and deserved, Gorges' $2.5M salary was a significant increase over his $1.1M cap hit from his prior 3-year deal. As much as we love Josh Gorges and what he brings to the table for the Habs, this latest increase borders on the ridiculous.

When news of this summer's one-year deal hit, we were worried that Gorges would head to unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer, where the Canadiens would almost certainly lose his services to another team. The alternative was exactly what happened today, a bloated deal signed during the season, not long after the defenseman proved that concerns about the status of his knee were no more than hogwash.

Of course, being concerned of one's health after season-ending knee surgery is usually a valid concern, but when you sign another defenseman who's proven to be even more injury prone to a crippling (no pun intended) 3-year deal, that argument is basically thrown out the window. Using it against Gorges, who, for all intents and purposes, was the Canadiens' iron man prior to his knee troubles, is insulting and degrading to a work horse such as him, a player who's had to prove himself time and time again, from going undrafted early in his career to last year's setback.

So, throwing the equivalent of a bone to Gorges over the summer not only alienates him from the organization, but it gives him and his agent a ridiculous amount of leverage if he happens to prove the general manager wrong. And over the course of 39 games, Gorges has done exactly that.

The defenseman hasn't missed a beat, playing every game for his team this season and playing big minutes in the process. He's on pace to pretty much match his career best offensive year, with 1 goal, 9 assists and a +6 rating, but more importantly, Gorges leads the entire lead in blocked shots with 101, one more than Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson. With P.K. Subban's sophomore slump and Andrei Markov still on the shelf, Josh Gorges has basically become this team's number one defenseman.

Gorges wanted to stay here last summer, and he was willing to meet Pierre Gauthier and the organization halfway. Unfortunately, the team was unwilling to budge on their game plan. Now, the Canadiens are stuck with a pretty big contract for the next six years.

On the one hand, you have to be happy for Gorges. He earns most of that money by playing hard every night. On the other hand, that's a lot of dough to cough up for a defensive defenseman with limited offensive output. And it's even more difficult to swallow when you consider everything mentioned above and everything we talked about over the summer. It's not difficult to imagine Gorges signing for a similar term but a lot less money if he was given the benefit of the doubt over the summer.

Instead, with the re-signings of Subban, Carey Price and others looming, the Canadiens are stuck with essentially tripling Gorges' 2010-11 salary because of a complete lack of faith in his ability, and because their depth on defense is comically bad.

At the very least, Gorges finally has the deal that we were all asking GM Pierre Gauthier to give him last year. And that can't be stressed enough. Gorges is a big part of the Montreal Canadiens, regardless of their troubles this year, and deserves to play the next six years with the Habs. But considering how long we've been asking for this to happen, and the circumstances of the situation with a considerable amount of money being thrown at the defenseman, the deal reaks of another face-saving move on the part of Pierre Gauthier.

With Gorges, the Canadiens are now committed to nearly $12.5 million on the blueline, and for just three players, along with Andrei Markov and the recently acquired Tomas Kaberle for 2012-13 (the seldom-used Yannick Weber is also on the books for another year). Hal Gill and Chris Campoli are unrestricted free agents, while Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz, and of course PK Subban have to be dealt with as RFAs.

Is a deal for Subban, one of the young bright lights of this organization, on the way with Gorges' deal on the books? Stay tuned to find out.