The Rangers opened up the 2009-10 season with a splash Wednesday, signing free agent forwards Marian Gaborik and Donald Brashear and bidding two thirds of their checking unit adieu with the departures of Colton Orr (Maple Leafs) and Fredrik Sjostrom (Flames). The moves followed Tuesday’s trade of Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens, in a week that has certainly changed the tone of the organization.
The signing immediately gives the Rangers a scoring threat that they lacked last season, though there are certainly questions about the Slovakian native’s health. Gaborik played just 17 games for Minnesota last season, but did manage to score 23 goals.
At least one commentator in Minnesota doesn’t seem to be too heartbroken about the imminent departure of the sole remaining original Wild player.
Conversely the signing of Brashear brings to Broadway a player who is now well liked amongst Rangers fans. Most recently the former Capital forward ended the season (and probably Rangers career) of Blair Betts with a late check that broke Betts’ cheek bone.
Also worth considering is Brashear’s age. At 37, he’s clearly in the twilight of his career, and struggled to make it into the line-up for Washington throughout last season. Due to his age at contract signing, his $1.4M salary in each of the next two years, will count against the Rangers’ Cap number even if he retires, or is sent to Hartford.
In explaining the moves yesterday, Sather pointed out that he did not have to give up any players to acquire Gaborik (reports had Brandon Dubinsky and Michal Rozsival being offered to Ottawa for Dany Heatley). He also noted that Brashear was quicker to the puck than Colton Orr.
Even with the moves yesterday, the team is projected to have $14-15M in Salary Cap room, though they do have to sign several free agents including Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Higgins, Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.
In other news, Chris Neil elected to resign with Ottawa after reportedly receiving a better offer to join the New York Rangers. Neil had failed to come to terms with the Senators at the deadline last year, which prompted speculation that he might consider moving onto another franchise.
With the free agency period less than 24 hours old, expect more action over the next day or so…