Gorges created domino effect by spurning Leafs

(Nam Y. Huh/AP)

TORONTO — Josh Gorges knows Toronto hockey fans haven’t forgotten he turned down a trade to the Maple Leafs, but he tries not to dwell upon the decision.

"You can’t look back on things in the past and say, ‘Maybe I should’ve done this different,’ or ‘Maybe I should’ve done that different,’ " the veteran defenceman said Tuesday before his first game at the Air Canada Centre with the Buffalo Sabres. "It’s in the past. You can’t change what’s happened."

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But by refusing to remove Toronto from his no-trade list, Gorges not only changed the course of history for himself but at least three other players and a trio of franchises. Had Gorges agreed to go, it’s likely the Canadiens wouldn’t have signed Tom Gilbert and possible the Leafs wouldn’t have signed Stephane Robidas.

And, of course, Cody Franson probably wouldn’t have remained in Toronto. But Gorges didn’t realize that initially when he called Franson, his longtime friend and Kelowna, B.C., neighbour, in June when considering his options.

"I needed some time and I called everybody I knew that knew anything about this team, this organization," Gorges said. "I wanted to get as much info as I could.

"I’ve known him for a number of years. He’s a good friend of mine so I thought why not give him a call and see what things are about."

Ultimately Gorges, 30, decided against going to Toronto because his heart simply wasn’t in it. Facing the Leafs in so many emotionally charged games with the Habs made it hard for him to accept the move, something Franson understood.

"He was in a situation where he had been a part of a rivalry for a long time and he did what was best for him, he felt," Franson said. "Nobody can blame him for that, I don’t think."

It wasn’t the first and almost certainly won’t be the last time Franson is the subject of trade talk. As much as playing in Toronto has taught Franson how to shield himself from it, he said these were "tough rumours not to hear."

"Those are ones that show up right on your front doorstep," Franson said. "If (the Leafs) were going to make a move that they feel is going to better the team, they’re going to do that.

"That’s out of my hands. I just approached my normal day and kept my phone close."

News that Gorges had turned down the Leafs surfaced around the NHL entry draft. On July 1, Montreal dealt him to Buffalo for a second-round pick and signed Gilbert to a US$5.6-million, two-year contract. Gilbert’s $2.8-million cap hit is just below Franson’s $3.3 million.

The Leafs continued stocking up on right-handed defencemen that day as well, signing Robidas to a $9-million, three-year contract. Days before, they sent Carl Gunnarsson to the St. Louis Blues for stay-at-home righty Roman Polak.

Through eight games, Franson is tied with Dion Phaneuf for the most points among Leafs defencemen with three. Gilbert is averaging over 22 minutes a game for the Habs.

Meanwhile, Gorges is an alternate captain with Buffalo and is being counted on to be a stabilizing force for another defenceman who’s seemingly always on the trade block, the six-foot-eight Tyler Myers.

Franson considers that a good thing for Gorges and Myers.

"He’s a guy that plays with a heart on his sleeve and leads very well," Franson said of Gorges. "He’s a guy that comes with a lot of experience.

"He’s a great person. I think he’s a guy that will fit into any locker room, any team in the NHL. I think he’s only going to help those guys.

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