One of the more curious happenings of the last few days was that the Montreal Canadiens tried to trade Josh Gorges to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They appeared to have a deal in place around the draft, per reports, but Gorges wouldn't waive his no-trade clause. He did, however, when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday in exchange for Buffalo's 2016 second-round pick.
If you had to look at the two rosters between Toronto and Buffalo (at least before today), you'd have no doubt that the Maple Leafs were closer to competitiveness than the Sabres. So why wouldn't Gorges go to Toronto?
"It's hard to realize after being in Montreal for such a long time that you can switch over and play for the Toronto Maple Leafs," Gorges said. "Nothing against that organization or that team, but when you build a rivalry it's hard mentally, emotionally to think, ‘Wow, I've grown to hate this team, to play against them. How could I really go and put my heart and soul into it?'
"So I just wanted to take some time before I made a decision. I've been thinking about waiving it to go there over the last few days, and then this came up here today."
This probably makes Habs fans a little weepy knowing that a long-time Canadien wouldn't agree to go to a rival. It should at least warm the heart a touch. So often you hear about how hockey is a business and the players go wherever they are told to go and just deal with it. Gorges exercised his rights within his contract to say he wouldn't play for a team he “grew to hate.”
By going to Buffalo, Gorges, who is under contract until 2017-18, joins a rebuilding club that even after some key signings on the first day of free agency may not be much of a playoff contender for a little while. Gorges could help contribute to a defense that was rather porous last season. It still could be a tough road for Buffalo, but the same could potentially be said for Toronto as well, though it didn't seem as bleak coming into today.
Gorges will be joined on the Sabres by his former Canadiens teammate and captain Brian Gionta, who signed a three-year deal to join the club, which is near his hometown of Greece, N.Y. That will soften the blow of actually getting traded away from a team he had spent parts of eight seasons with.
The 29-year-old Gorges posted a goal and 13 assists in 66 games for the Habs last season, while averaging more than 21 minutes a game. He was also credited with 177 blocked shots in 2013-14. Gorges also appeared in 17 playoff contests in helping the Canadiens reach the Eastern Conference Final.
The Sabres needed to add veteran talent for surround their litany of promising young players with. They did that by adding Gorges, Gionta and Matt Moulson, and also managed to re-sign restricted free agent Marcus Foligno on July 1.
It was a busy day for the Sabres, but a fruitful one for a team that still has a long way to go on the road to rebuilding.