Dany Heatley may have wanted to come to New York, but Glen Sather looked elsewhere yesterday for scoring help. The Rangers officially announced they had signed Marian Gaborik to a long term contract yesterday (5 years – $37.5M) in a move that immediately brings some scoring ability into the mix.
The Rangers finished tied for the fifth fewest goals in the league last year, and lost their leading goal scorer when Markus Naslund announced he was retiring back in May. In total, the remaining roster for the Rangers totaled just 128 goals last year, after the losses of Naslund (24), Gomez (16), Dawes (10), Antropov (7), Sjostrom (7), Betts (6), Mara (5), Prucha (4), Fritsche (1), Kalinin (1) and Kalinin (1).
In the 27 year old Gaborik, the Rangers instantly get a scoring threat. The franchise leader in almost all offensive categories for the Minnesota Wild, the Slovak born winger brings 50+ goal scoring capability, even if that potential hasn’t been reached yet.
In his press conference with the media last night, Sather pointed to that potential and noted that Gaborik’s achievements have come under the defense first philosophy of coach Jacques Lemaire, though it should also be noted that the Wild have often been amongst the best in the league on the power play, a stark contrast to the Rangers who had been in the middle or at the bottom of the league under Tom Renney.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Rangers will be how durable he’ll be in New York. Coming off just 17 games in 2008-09 thanks to a torn labrum, Gaborik has missed 154 games in his 8 year career through injuries and a contract dispute. In the last three seasons alone, he’s missed 65, 5 and 34 games.
With a five year contract and $7.5M a year, Gaborik basically slots into the space freed up by the Scott Gomez trade Tuesday.
At this stage it’s not clear who Gaborik is most suited to play with. Sather suggested Brandon Dubinsky might be an option at center, while a player like Nikolai Zherdev could potentially benefit playing beside or behind Gaborik.
In the other major move yesterday, the Rangers also added aging tough-guy Donald Brashear. The 37 year old joins the Blueshirts following a playoffs in which he earned a suspension for a late hit on Blair Betts, that ended the Ranger center’s season and likely career as a Ranger.
Not well liked amongst Ranger fans following his tenure in Philadelphia and Washington, Brashear does bring a legitimate heavyweight presence and perhaps more of a rounded game than the recently departed Colton Orr. Orr, who signed a four year deal with Toronto, had left New York without a legitimate enforcer, a role Brashear will fill even if only on a part-time basis.
Because of his age, Brashear’s two year, $2.8M contract will count against the Rangers’ salary cap whether or not he plays for the Rangers. It’s a legitimate concern given his status as a healthy scratch for significant stretches last season in Washington.
Aside from Orr, the Rangers also said farewell to another of their checking line yesterday. Fredrik Sjostrom had not been given a qualifying offer and signed on with Calgary for two years.