With his contract expiring and the Montreal Canadiens all but officially out of the playoff race, it seemed a near certainty teams would enquire about defenseman Tom Gilbert at the trade deadline. Or it did until Gilbert had a knee injury assessed Monday and was ruled out of the remainder of the season.
The Canadiens announced Monday evening that Gilbert, who suffered a left knee injury Feb. 19 against the Philadelphia Flyers, will require surgery on his knee that will put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
Gilbert, 33, hasn’t exactly lit it up in Montreal this season, but he could have been a steady depth option for a contender come playoff time. In 45 games, Gilbert has one goal and two points while averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time, but his ability to skate and pass the puck could have made him a solid addition.
With Gilbert out, the Canadiens lose one potential trade chip as the deadline nears. Other unrestricted free agents-to-be, such as Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann and Paul Byron, are also likely to draw interest, but a struggling Montreal club could have used as many tradable assets as they can get their hands on as they try to retool for the 2016-17 season. A player like Gilbert could have landed the Canadiens a late-round pick.
Gilbert will now head into the off-season with no contract and having missed the final 22 games of the season, a long enough span that he could have showcased his ability down the stretch and landed a deal as a free agent. He’s coming off of a two-year, $5.6-million deal with the Canadiens, but is far removed from his most productive seasons.
Drafted in the fourth round, 129th overall, of the 2002 draft by Colorado, Gilbert had his best years as an Edmonton Oiler. His career-year came in 2008-09 when he scored five goals and 45 points in 82 games.
To replace Gilbert, Victor Bartley, acquired as part of the John Scott trade, has been called up from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.