Scott Gomez was maligned in Montreal for underproducing on a big money contract, but the veteran center turned it around this past season and could be a savvy signing if the Blues lock him up. In 58 games with New Jersey in 2014-15, he scored seven goals and 34 points.
When Scott Gomez was a Montreal Canadien, his inability to find the back of the net became a running joke. For more than a year — from Feb. 5, 2011 to Feb. 9, 2012 — Gomez hadn’t scored a single regular season goal. It turned Gomez, who was earning $7 million annually, into one of the most maligned players in Montreal, and that reputation of overpaid under-producer has stuck with him since.
His name is usually followed by a remembrance of the goalless drought, but the 35-year-old Gomez has been a handy depth forward over the past three seasons with little fanfare. He’s had a tough time shaking his reputation, but Gomez used it to fly under the radar this past season in New Jersey and scored seven goals and 34 points in 58 games.
Now, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy P. Rutherford, Gomez, who was on a PTO with St. Louis, is working on a contract for the 2015-16 season with Blues, which would be the perfect fit for the veteran center.
There are parts of Gomez’s game that make him a perfect fit on a young team with spots for veteran talent, too. And should St. Louis sign him, it’s worth wondering if he’ll be able to make an already lethal power play even better. After ranking fourth in power play percentage at 22.3 percent, Gomez could bring his 14 power play assists, which were tied for 36th in the NHL last season, to the Blues first or second unit.
Gomez also has been able to maintain his speed throughout his career. Even at 35, he was still one of the speedier Devils in 2014-15. If he can boost the Blues’ ability to gain the offensive zone and regain puck possession in the attacking end, that’s an even bigger bonus for St. Louis.
Never in his career was Gomez known as a sniper, but rather as a savvy player who used his head and his hands to get himself on the score sheet with his playmaking ability. Early in his career with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez’s passing ability was evident. In each of his first five seasons, Gomez notched at least 45 points, never once surpassing the 20-goal plateau. His highest-scoring season was a 14-goal, 70-point campaign in 2003-04, right before the lockout.
Perceptions of Gomez were changed the season following the lockout when he went off for 33 goals and 84 points, which made some think he had finally found a goal scoring touch. Instead, the following season he scored 13 goals and a respectable 60 points. That didn’t stop him from cashing in big time, though, as the New York Rangers shelled out a seven-year, $51 million deal to Gomez in the off-season. Unwittingly, it turned Gomez into an overpaid punchline. But throughout his contract, it was mostly his pay, not his play, that had changed.
An awful trade that sent him and his contract to Montreal made his deal look worse, especially considering he was part of a package that brought present-day Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh to New York. Over the next three seasons, Gomez’s production would slip from 59 points to 38 and then 11, which led to his buyout.
Following the buyout, Gomez signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the San Jose Sharks to prove he still had some game left. Gomez, then 33, notched two goals and 15 points in 39 games. The season prior, while earning $7.5 million from the Canadiens, Gomez had only managed two goals and 11 points in 38 contests. He then went to Florida, where he contributed two goals and 12 points despite playing little more than 13 minutes per night.
But back in New Jersey for 2014-15, Gomez found his game again as an injury replacement on a depleted roster. He slotted into a top-six role and skated more than 16 minutes per contest. New Jersey was a bad team, but Gomez was their third-highest scorer and while making a mere $550,000.
Admittedly, the Blues aren’t looking for Gomez to be a 40- or 50-point scorer. If anything, the plan is to have him be a depth contributor who can be utilized in offensive zone situations. He’s not your typical dump-and-chase, grinding fourth-line player, but putting him alongside two players with offensive upside could give the Blues an interesting look on the third- or fourth-line. And on a team that needs some sort of change to find post-season success, maybe a simple signing like Gomez can be enough.