The season changing deal that Predators fans have been asking about for months now has gone down as the Preds bring 6’7’’ defenseman and former Cup champ Hal Gill (along with a conditional 5th round pick in 2013) from the fading Montreal Canadiens in exchange for career minor leaguer Robert Slaney, hometown kid Blake Geoffrion, and a 2nd Round Pick.
Though not possessing the skill of Peter Forsberg (or Mike Fisher for that matter) the Gil acquisition is just like them a deadline deal that changes the complexion of the Predators season goals. At 36 Gill isn’t exactly a young buck and his offensive skills leave A LOT to be desired but size is something that cannot be taught and is hard to come by. While Weber, Suter, Ellis and company shoulder the puck moving and offensive burden from the blueline Gill will play his usual stay at home game and ensure scoring chances are not easy to come by with his shot blocking ability and long reach keeping shooters to the outside.
As a lifelong Bruins fan and (until recently) lifelong resident of Massachusetts I got to see Hal Gill go from high school quarterback to Providence College to finally playing for the Bruins alongside his boyhood idol Ray Bourque as #77’s career was winding down. To be honest Gill’s game with the Bruins was subpar the only real strength he had was forcing big shooter a la Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux to the outside with his superhuman reach. However since leaving Boston in 2006 and throughout stops with Toronto, Pittsburgh (Where he won the Stanley Cup in 2009), and Montreal with his defensive game became more refined and consistent. He will never be mistaken for Shea Weber offensively but his defensive game is crucial to the Predators making a long postseason run in the ever tough Western Conference. With big, skilled forwards such as David Backes, Ryan Kesler and Anze Kopitar playing for projected playoff teams in the West Gill’s size and toughness will be called upon to keep these power forwards in check.
Montreal also received a fair compensation in return for the behemoth defenseman while Robert Slaney was a throw in for contractual purposes Blake Geoffrion and the 2nd round pick will both help in Montreal’s rebuilding process. While the fans of Nashville may consider Geoffrion a hometown kid (He was raised in Brentwood) Montreal is also a homecoming of sorts for Blake. Blake’s grandfather Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion was a Habs great that in many circles is credited with inventing the slap shot and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as well his #5 is retired by the Habs (Blake wears #5 in his honor and I’m sure it will be an intriguing situations when he gets the call up from the Canadiens). Blake, the 2010 Hobey Baker recipient has shown his upside (a hat trick last season against the Sabres) but also has plenty of inconsistencies that come with being a young player. With prospects such as Taylor Beck and Austin Watson and Gabriel Bourque already on the NHL roster giving up a young forward is a hit the Predators can take. Overall it is a great deal for the Predators as it shows the fan base (as well as two high profile defensemen) that the franchise is serious about winning right now. Gill makes the already tough to play against even tougher and will make Pekka Rinne’s job a little easier on most nights, being the size of an NBA power forward makes getting quality scoring chances just a little harder to come by for the opposition.
I’m including this prospect profile I did on Geoffrion a few months ago as it pertains to the piece. As a Bruins fan it hurts to say this but best of luck to Blake as he goes to a city that is known for its hockey the way Nashville is known for its country music.