We've seen the first big-name defenseman move for this year's deadline, but not to Philadelphia or Chicago as we expected. Instead the strong get stronger.
The Nashville Predators acquired Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a conditional pick in 2013, in exchange for Blake Geoffrion and forward Robert Slaney.
Gill has 8 points in 53 games this season, along with a minus-7 rating. Despite playing at an advanced age, 36, the veteran defenseman has considerable playoff experience. Gill has played 105 playoff games in 13 seasons, remembered most for his performances in the 2009 Stanley Cup run for the Pittsburgh Penguins and his shut-down role in Montreal's 2010 run to the Eastern Conference final.
With the Habs in 2010, Gill led the charge against the offensive power-houses of Alex Ovechkin in Washington and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, before the Worn-out Canadiens fell to Philadelphia in five games.
The Predators will benefit from Gill's shot-blocking ability as well as his reach on the penalty-kill, where they have struggled compared to past years. They currently sit 16th in the NHL in that category, compared to fifth and eight place rankings the past two years respectively. Further, despite an even further diminished skating ability, Gill does make an already deep defensive corp, featuring stars like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, even stronger in front of a Vezina caliber goaltender in Peka Rinne.
Montreal gets Geoffrion, who on the surface sounds primarily like a PR story. Geoffrion is the third generation of Geoffrions to play in Montreal, the son of Danny Geoffrion and grandson of legend "Boom-Boom" Bernie Geoffrion. He is also the great-grandson of Montreal-great Howie Morenz.
Geoffrion, who recorded three assists in 22 games for the Predators this season after recording eight points in twenty games last season, is a compelling prospect. Geoffrion won the Hobey Baker Award in 2010 while at Wisconsin and has terrific skating ability. He will likely be sent to Hamilton when he arrives from Nashville, but is certainly going to get a long look at next years training camp, if not a call-up this spring, for a team that needs a lot of imagination offensively this summer.
Looking over the deal, one would have to say that the Predators overpaid. Gill, despite a good response to playoff work-loads for underdog teams, hasn't had a positive rating since 2009 and hasn't topped 11 points since 2008. Even less mobile than he's already been recognized for throughout his career, he isn't a bad addition for the deep Nashville blueline but hardly seems worthy of a second-round pick and two prospects, one of which shows promise for a career as an effective third-line center at the very least.
In any event, the blueline in Nashville just got bigger. Now it's time for Brian Poile to round up the wagons again and find that scoring touch the Preds will so desperately need.