After allowing 24 hours to let Friday’s transaction between Nashville and Montreal sink in, I thought now would be the perfect time for me to weigh in on the acquisition of defenseman Hal Gill in exchange for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney and the Predators second-round draft pick in 2012.
For the Predators: The price was high, but Nashville general manager David Poile landed one of the top two of three defenseman actually available at this point. Gill brings a boatload of playoff experience as a shutdown specialist on the blueline, and was a key cog for Pittsburgh on their recent Stanley Cup run. Gill then topped that performance during the 2010 playoffs for Montreal where he and the unheralded Josh Georges paired to completely neutralize top offensive units of both Washington and Pittsburgh.
Yes, Gill is 36-years-old and could leave as an unrestricted free agent in the off season. However, Hal Gill is the type of player you win Stanley Cups with. He provides a perfect compliment to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter as a three or four defenseman, offering size and strength to a blueline that needs it. Gill is a weapon shot blocking and playing the penalty kill, and he gives Nashville impressive depth on the point.
Here is Predators general manager on why he acquired Gill:
“Hal Gill brings our team a number of elements – size, penalty-killing ability, depth on defense and playoff experience,” Poile said in a statement. “(Gill) has won a Stanley Cup and played a combined 69 playoff games over the last four years. (His) experience that significantly benefits our team.”
For Montreal: The price Montreal extracted for their rental defenseman was high. Personally, I felt a second round pick or a third round pick and prospect would have been more than sufficient, but the top options available around the deadline were Pavel Kubina, Tim Gleason (recently taken off the market) and Gill. The lack of available players certainly raised Gill’s price.
Personally I think Poile had a choice to trade either a first-round pick or second round pick and prospects. If given that option, I, like Poile would have taken the second-round pick and sacrificed a prospect. With the system well stocked, Geoffrion was expendable.
“You got to give up to make a deal at this trade deadline,” Poile said on media call Friday afternoon. “We did in giving up our second-round pick and Blake Geoffrion.”
Robert Slaney leaves as a throw in. Slaney is player with a little bit of potential, but is hardly significant either way. I am kind of surprised that he was involved.
For Milwaukee: This might be case of addition by subtraction. After last season, Geoffrion wanted to be with the Predators on a full time basis and got his shot to be in the early going. Fighting through injuries and playing in the AHL in 2011-2012, the fire Geoffrion showed during the second half of 2010-2011 was not there on a night in and night out basis. Now Geoffrion gets another shot with another organization, and the Admirals get another spot in the lineup for a player eager to be there.
My final verdict: I think this a great trade for Nashville. The Predators are gearing up for a serious Stanley Cup run this season and realize that 1) they could be down to only more playoffs with both Suter and Weber 2) only two playoffs with Weber if they don’t resign. This trade for Gill combined with the addition of Mike Fisher a year ago, shows that Nashville is committed toward a winning. That might entice Weber and Suter to stay on board after a summer which might have cast some doubts.
For Geoffrion this season equates to setback for the former Hobey Baker winner after a great development year in 2010-2011. But in Montreal Geoffrion gets a change of scenery (Blake is still growing as a player) but more importantly he adds some size and strength to a Canadiens lineup that sorely needs it. Combine that with the legacy factor of Geoffrion’s family and Montreal should be acquiring a player who will be beloved at the Bell Centre.
Poile admitted that Geoffrion’s family history played into the trade, much like acquisition of Mike Fisher a year ago: “If it wasn’t for Montreal, the unique situation with his family . . . I probably wouldn’t have traded him. It’s extremely tough to do because of (Blake’s) obvious ties to Nashville.”
Geoffrion expressed some mixed emotions on the trade via twitter: “Wow..what a day…it’s bitter-sweet, going to miss my hometown of Nashville, but going to where it all started with my family…MONTREAL!!!”
In closing I say a fond goodbye to Blake. It has been great watching you play 5+ years of hockey in the state of Wisconsin. Best of luck fulfilling the Geoffrion family heritage in Montreal.