Montreal Canadiens: Defenseman Hal Gill Is an Anomaly

Jason HitelmanCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 3: Hal Gill #75 of the Montreal Canadiens skates prior to the NHL game against the Florida Panthers on March 3, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Canadiens defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

It has been a difficult offseason for the stay-at-home defenseman.

As the shutdown guys have been watching their offensive counterparts (like Shea Weber, James Wisniewski, Brent Burns and Keith Yandle) cash in, they have struggled to find well-paying jobs in the NHL.

Gone are the days of yore—or the 2010 offseason, rather—that saw Anton Volchenkov and Zbynek Michalek get monstrous contracts.

Chris Phillips even managed to sign a healthy extension with the Ottawa Senators before the market dropped. Granted, Sens general manager Bryan Murray wanted at least one proven veteran on the blue line and had to overpay to keep him there after he was spoken about countless times before the trade deadline, but Phillips still got his money.

It's as if something happened once the season ended, though. After witnessing the emergence of Drew Doughty, Tyler Myers, Cam Fowler, P.K. Subban and John Carlson, the NHL's general managers appear to have little to no interest in defensemen with no proclivity to move the puck.

After over 10 seasons in the NHL and a Stanley Cup to his name, Brent Sopel was apparently unable to find a job in the league and signed in the KHL.

Colin White, a stalwart pillar of the New Jersey Devils blue line, was bought out and nearly immediately signed by the San Jose Sharks to a one-year, $1 million contract. The 33-year-old White has won two Stanley Cups.

After a long search, Scott Hannan finally found a job last week. The Calgary Flames signed him to a one-year, $1 million deal—quite the departure from the four-year, $18 million he received in 2007.

If you think age is an issue here, what about Karl Alzner? The Washington Capitals signed the 22-year-old to a two-year deal worth $2.57 million. Sure, it was his first RFA-level contract, but will Drew Doughty be making anything in that range? I think not.

In all of this, one player sticks out like a sore thumb with an anomalous contract.

Hal Gill is set to make $2.25 million this season.

Gill is 36 years old, slow as molasses, makes some terrible mistakes on the ice, doesn't score, isn't very physical, etc.

So why is he making so much money?

Yes, he is one of the best penalty-killing defensemen in the league (especially during 5-on-3 situations), but being a one-dimensional player has never really been cause for putting one in a higher pay bracket than his counterparts.

Gill's mentoring abilities are second to none. During the 2009-2010 season, Gill showed Josh Gorges the ropes and transformed him into, with Andrei Markov shelved, the Montreal Canadiens' best defenseman.

When P.K. Subban needed guidance last season, Gill took him under his wing and, in a similar story, turned him into the team's best defenseman.

Obviously Subban had the skills to succeed, but he needed a calming presence on the ice, and "Skillsy" was just that.

With more youngsters making their way to the Habs blue line—Yannick Weber, Rafael Diaz, Brendon Nash and Alexei Emelin (with a language barrier, no doubt), to name a few—Gill is an invaluable component on the team as a mentor, if nothing else.

If Gill had gone into free agency after last season, he probably wouldn't have gotten the same money that the Habs gave him, but I'm sure both sides are fine with that.

Hal the teacher is worth the money to the team.

And that huge stick blocking passes when Gill's swimming around on the ice while killing two-man disadvantages doesn't hurt!

Jason is on Twitter: @jhytel


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