Josh Gorges joined Montreal in 2007. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

After emotional exit from Canadiens, Josh Gorges happy to be with Sabres

BUFFALO – Tim Murray’s phone rang Tuesday. On the other end, a Montreal Canadiens decision-maker asked the Sabres general manager if he was interested in defenseman Josh Gorges.

“I said, ‘Yes, but what’s the point of being interested? He’s got a no-trade (clause),’” Murray said inside the First Niagara Center.

The Canadiens told Murray that Gorges had added the Sabres to his list of teams he would accept a trade to. Shortly after that, the Sabres sent a 2016 second-round pick to Montreal for Gorges, who has four years and $15.6 million left on his contract.

Murray never spoke to Gorges.

“To me, that speaks volumes,” Murray said. “So you can talk and talk and talk all you want. Actions speak louder than words.”

Tuesday’s trade, the Sabres’ first acquisition of the day, capped an emotional 72 hours for Gorges. On Saturday, the Canadiens called him and told him they wanted to deal him.

“My initial reaction was shock,” Gorges said on a conference call. “You know that trades are a part of this game. It’s a business we’re a part of. You learn to deal with it. But when that phone call comes and you’re told it’s you, it’s always a shocking day.”

He added: “It’s been a tough couple of days until today, and now things are looking bright again.”

He joined the Habs in 2007. Many thought he would be storied franchise’s new captain, replacing, ironically, Brian Gionta, who signed with the Sabres later Tuesday.

Gorges reportedly nixed a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a fierce Montreal rival.

Eventually, he “wanted to re-evaluate the teams I had on the list.” The rebuilding Sabres looked pretty good. He’s always had a lot of respect for coach Ted Nolan. He said they never gave Montreal easy games.

“With the new ownership and what they’ve been doing with that team and the direction that they’re heading, I felt like it was a good opportunity to go in there and grow with a good, young team,” Gorges said. “I just think it’s a good fit for me, for my family and we’re excited about it.”

He added: “I think everything there is the right fit for a team to really move in the right direction.”

Having Gionta, a close friend, is “comforting” for Gorges and his family.

“It definitely makes things easier moving forward knowing how good of a friend he’s been to me and the mentor he’s been to me in the last five years playing with him,” he said.

What will be Gorges’ role with the Sabres?

“I want to be a leader on the team with all those good, young players and try to help out any way I can,” said Gorges, who has 14 goals and 98 points in 560 NHL games. “If guys have questions, even just being a role model with how I compete, that’s what I want to do.”

Murray called Gorges, an aggressive, 6-foot-1 shot-blocker, “heart and soul.”

“He plays to the most of his ability and the most of an effort level every shift,” he said. “He blocks shots. He’s the type of player that can wear a letter. He’s definitely part of the leadership group. He brings a lot of intangibles.”

Gorges’ tenacity during Montreal’s 2013 playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, Murray’s old team, wowed him.

“You just have to sit through a series and watch it,” he said. “His care level is way up here.”

One thing won’t change for Gorges. The Leafs are also the Sabres’ biggest rival. Gorges is ready.

“It won’t take me long to get into that rivalry with Toronto because I’ve been living it for a number of years already,” he said.

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