Glen Sather has kicked off the Rangers’ summer with a blockbuster deal that has sent Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens along with prospects Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto in exchange for Christopher Higgins, Doug Janik, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.
The move transfers the remaining five years (at just over $7.3M per year) of the Alaskan native’s contract to Montreal and frees up some substantial cap space ahead of tomorrow’s July 1st free agency period.
After spending his first seven years of his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez set his sights on joining New York in 2007, and was rewarded with the biggest contract the Rangers had ever offered to a player, along with a limited no trade clause. It appeared at the time that the future of both Gomez and the Rangers was set.
Things didn’t quite work out though…
Gomez managed just five goals in his first thirty games in New York, and it became quickly apparent that his style of play was unsuited to being paired with Jaromir Jagr. Instead of improving the offense, the additions of Gomez and Chris Drury proved to be poor fits for the Rangers’ top goal scorer.
An ankle injury and a preponderance for turning over the puck ultimately lead to another sub-par season in 2008-09, and a ticket out of town. In Tom Pyatt, the Rangers are giving up a hard working forward who has struggled so far to cement his spot at the AHL level, and appears to be a long-shot to be an NHL regular at this stage of his career. As for Busto, the former free agent signing has struggled with his health, and has not been able to make an impression yet at the ECHL level.
In return the Rangers get a couple of intriguing players.
Christopher Higgins scored only 12 goals last year while missing 24 games last season, but has had totals of 23, 27 and 22 goals in his first three seasons in the NHL. A Restricted Free Agent, Higgins earned $1.7M last year and may elect to accept his one-year qualifying offer and head to UFA status next summer, or push the Rangers for a more lucrative longer term deal.
Defenseman Doug Janik has been used largely as a depth player through his career to date, and comes to the Rangers as a pending UFA. It is uncertain whether the Rangers will make any attempt to sign him at this stage.
Perhaps the most intriguing player coming back to New York is defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh. Entering his third year with the University of Wisconsin, McDonagh is considered to have a good shot at an NHL career, perhaps moreso as a blueliner than can contribute some offensively (think Dan Girardi type) than a standout.
Rounding out the return for the Rangers is Russian defender Pavel Valentenko. Your more classic stay at home type punishing defender, Valentenko has been plying his trade in Russia, though he did attend training camp with Montreal last Fall.