Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges met the media at the practice facility in Brossard, on Saturday, May 11, 2013.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, The Gazette
MONTREAL — In 72 hours, veteran Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges ran a gamut of emotions that included shock, puzzlement and disbelief, perhaps feeling not unlike he’d been winded by a crushing check.
But this would all yield to positive thoughts of his hockey future, and the possibilities that existed with a change of address.
Early Tuesday afternoon, Gorges exhaled in relief with the news that he’d been traded by the Canadiens to the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres, exchanged for a second-round draft pick in 2016.
“I’ve kind of known for three days that my time here was over,” Gorges said by phone shortly after the trade had been announced.
“It was more a matter of where I was going to end up. I think that was the hardest part, not having anywhere to go. So you sit and wait and that’s tough to swallow — knowing that my time in Montreal had come to an end.”
The process was an earthquake to Gorges, who has four years remaining in a six-year, $23.4-million contract. At no point did he see a trade coming, and he admits he was stunned when he took a call at his South Shore home Saturday from his agent, Kevin Epp, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin asking if Gorges would waive his modified no-trade clause to accept a deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs were not on Gorges’s 15-team list of clubs to which he’d accept a trade; no amount of discussion with that club would make him bend, even as he added a couple more teams to his list — including the Sabres on Tuesday morning.
“A lot of that had to do with them being a rival team,” he said of spurning the Maple Leafs, having developed a healthy hatred for Toronto in games with the Canadiens.
“When you get the call initially and they’re on your (no-trade) list, I needed time to think about it. I had talks with them. I tried to think if it would be a good fit for me and my wife.
“But even before I knew it, the trade was happening (Tuesday). I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wouldn’t have changed my mind with Toronto. It’s just that time ran out.
“Anything was possible. I was going to wait and hear my options, if I had any, but the trade was made before anything else needed to be discussed.”
In fact, Gorges was working out in the Canadiens gym at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard Tuesday morning when the deal was made. He said that for several days, he had been taking his personal effects from the training facility, expecting a trade.
It didn’t hurt that Gorges had spoken a little earlier with his close friend Brian Gionta, the Canadiens captain who was speaking seriously with the Sabres as an unrestricted free agent.
He also knows well Buffalo defenceman Tyler Myers, a fellow alumnus of the Western league’s major-junior Kelowna Rockets.
While Gorges and I were speaking, it was announced that Gionta had signed a three-year, $13.5-million deal with Buffalo, not far from the latter’s hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
“Perfect,” Gorges said with a laugh when advised, Gionta’s signing not news to him.
“I thought it would make things an even easier transition, going somewhere not only with somebody you know but somebody you’re really close with,” Gorges said of moving to the Sabres with Gionta.
“With Brian from around there, he’d be able to help us find a place to live and get settled, especially with a newborn. With all these things you have to think about, it would be nice if it worked out that way.”
Gorges and his wife, Maggie, are expecting their first child within days, another reason the sudden end of his seven-plus seasons and 464 games in a Canadiens jersey winded him like a cross-check in the ribs.
“I had one goal in mind in Montreal: to win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “When you set a goal, you don’t want to come up short of it and that would be it. You want to see it through to the end.
“It’s unfortunate I’ll not be able to do that, but the flip side of that is I have an opportunity go help out a good young team in Buffalo and try to help achieve that same goal there.”
Gorges laughed about what might await him when he returns to the Bell Centre on Nov. 29, the Sabres’ first trip of the 2014-15 season.
“I really have no idea,” he said of the welcome, in whatever form it will take. “From my time here, when players move on to other teams, they almost always get booed and I would assume there would be some of that.
“Fans here get into the games, they’re excited and passionate about them, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see what the reaction is.
“Maybe it will be a little different because the trade wasn’t my choice. But at the end of the day,” he said, laughing again, “I don’t think that will matter.”
Gorges joked that he hadn’t — yet — thrown the belongings of two-year tenant and now former teammate Brendan Gallagher on the front lawn, joking that the young forward might be willing to the buy the house.
And he said he can’t wait to face the goaltender he has spent seasons defending, having turned his body black and blue blocking shots for him.
“With all of my goal-scoring expertise,” Gorges said, a dozen plus one to his credit with the Canadiens, “I’m sure I’ll find a way to score on Carey Price.”
See hockeyinsideout.com for more background on the Canadiens’ bid to trade Gorges, from the eve of July 1 opening of free-agency
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