Montreal Canadiens: Jeff Gorton Faces Many Similar Questions He Answered With Rangers

The Montreal Canadiens terrible start to the 2021-22 season ultimately resulted in the firing of Marc Bergevin and the hiring of Jeff Gorton.

While the titles are different, the roles are similar as Gorton takes over the role as the top guy in command of the front office. What Bergevin said was law in Montreal and now the final say will go to Gorton.

There are a lot of questions to answer, but Gorton was able to handle very similar questions when he was the general manager of the New York Rangers. It wasn’t always popular what he did, but it was the right thing for the long term success of the franchise.

Even when the Rangers were still contending for Stanley Cups, Gorton made a few deals that were in the long term interest of the club. Following the 2016-17 season, he traded top six centre Derek Stepan and backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and promising prospect Tony DeAngelo.

It didn’t help the team immediately, but that is a heck of an offer for Stepan and Raanta, so Gorton took it.

He eventually decided the right thing to do was take this good team and tear it down to rebuild and come back stronger than ever. The ownership group okayed that plan and then fired him when the team was on the precipice of long term Stanley Cup contention once again.

Gorton had to make a few really tough decisions during that rebuild, and one of them might look really familiar again for him in the near future.

One of the least popular things he had to do in his career was deal with the contract of Henrik Lundqvist. The goaltender is a legend in New York with his fame rising far above any other recent New York Ranger.

But, Lundqvist career was winding down and he put up pretty pedestrian numbers over the final four years of his career. The last two seasons saw him struggle to keep his save percentage above .900. He had one year left on his contract after the 2019-20 season with a cap hit of $8.5 million.

It was time for Igor Shesterkin to take over the crease and he had a much cheaper backup in Alexander Georgiev already in the organization. Gorton made the difficult, and unpopular, but correct choice to buyout the final year of Lundqvist’s contract and pave the way for Shesterkin to take over as the number one.

Shesterkin was really good last season and is putting up Vezina caliber numbers this year with a 2.05 GAA and a .937 SV%. Clearing out Lundqvist allowed Shesterkin to start 35 games last season and be ready to handle the starter’s role full time this season.

As unpopular as buying out Lundqvist might have been, Gorton might have a more polarizing decision to make in Montreal.

Carey Price has four more years on his contract after this one, but if Gorton decides to do a rebuild, does it make sense to keep Price in town? It might be hard to bottom out for top draft picks if Price and Jake Allen are sharing the net every night.

Down the road a bit, it might start to make a lot of sense to trade Carey Price. The idea seemed impossible at times over the first few years of Price’s current contract. It seemed unfathomable when we last saw Price playing which was the Stanley Cup Final.

But with the way the team is playing now? It could make sense to trade Price. At least we know that Gorton has handled a very similar decision in the past and he made the right call for the future of the franchise.