Reprinted with permission form hockeybuzz.com
Former Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta pretty much knew that the writing was on the wall with the Habs as the 11th hour (both literally and figuratively) was approaching Tuesday.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Gionta and his agent had been negotiating with Habs' GM Marc Bergevin throughout the weekend but just couldn't come together on term. The 35 yr. old Gionta, who has a wife and three children was looking for the security of a multi-year deal. Bergevin was offering one year.
"We were in constant contact with Bergevin over the last week and even a few times (Tuesday) morning trying to figure out where each could go. There are no hard feelings."
The Sabres offered Gionta a 3yr./$12.75M contract, which was just shy of the $5M/season he had been making previously.
Like all GM's, Tim Murray was offered the opportunity to reach out to players' agents during a five day window leading up to the Tuesday opening of free agency. Although contract details are not allowed, both GM and agent can get a feel for what a player might be looking at.
The Sabres reached out to Gionta's agent and ended up being one of five teams interested in the services of the 12-year NHL vet. "[Buffalo] was in it right away," he said, alluding to the five day courting period.
As the weekend passed and the Tuesday noon-hour approached Buffalo was looking pretty good to the Rochester native.
“At the age I am now, a lot depended on the term — where we want to be at the end of this contract, not having to go through a lot of stuff again,” Gionta said. “Buffalo is close to our hometown and as far as our family is concerned, it’s an easier fit than some other places would have been, an easier transition. A lot of things played into this decision."
“It was a business move on their side. I completely understand — they’re protecting their interests, but at the same time I had to protect my interests and my family’s.”
A business decision is what blindsided Josh Gorges and left him reeling.
The "heart and soul" veteran of eight NHL seasons still had four years left on his a six-year contract he had signed with the Canadiens but was put on the trade block. And with a baby due any time now, it couldn't have been a worse time to learn that you're being traded.
Gorges had been leaning on Gionta since reconciling himself with the fact that he would be on the move.
From to the Gazette, "Gionta had been regularly in touch with Gorges since the weekend, when the latter learned from his agent during the NHL draft that the Canadiens were trying to trade him."
“It was a tough time for Josh. I was there for him, trying to help him out,” Gionta said. “He knew the Sabres were on my short list so it will be great to have him there."
Buffalo wasn't on Gorges' original list of 15 teams we would accept a trade to. But once the world stopped spinning and he looked at his situation, Buffalo didn't seem like a bad idea after all.
"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 Buffalo area 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.”
Thus began a span of 2 hours and 15 minutes that saw the last place Buffalo Sabres add five legitimate NHL players including the former Canadiens captain of four years and a heart and soul defenseman who logged over 21 minutes/game for Montreal last year.
That Gionta was the key cog in all of this can not be understated.
For either the Buffalo Sabres and Josh Gorges.
Many thanks to David Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette for his articles on both Gionta and Gorges.