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Numbers Game: Gaborik Goes to Big Apple

Scott Cullen
7/2/2009 3:08:06 PM
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After peddling one big contract to the Montreal Canadiens on June 30, the New York Rangers dipped into the free agent market to land the most talented scorer available.

Numbers Game looks at the Blueshirts' addition of Marian Gaborik.

The Rangers Get: RW Marian Gaborik.

Gaborik, 27, is one of the most electrifying players in the league, when healthy, and that qualification is precisely why there weren't more teams lined up eager to take him on for five years at $37.5-million.

A blazing skater, who accelerates to top speed very quickly, Gaborik is also an elite finisher.  Since the lockout, Gaborik has been limited to 207 games over four seasons, yet with 123 goals, his 0.59 goals per game ranks second in the entire NHL over that period (Alexander Ovechkin ranks first at 0.68 goals per game) and in just 17 games last season, Gaborik tallied 13 goals and 23 points.

Possibly even more impressive, Gaborik produced at this rate despite playing in one of the league's most notorious defence-first systems.  Moving to New York, Gaborik should be able to count on a more aggressive, attacking style of play, so it's possible his production could be even greater.

Furthermore, Gaborik's ongoing groin troubles may have been solved, at least somewhat, by last year's hip surgery (at least that was the premise when Gaborik decided to have it midseason). 

If that's the case, the Rangers could be getting the Gaborik who, despite his injury troubles, has scored at least 30 goals in five of his eight NHL seasons, not to mention recording a plus rating in each of the last six campaigns.

The challenge, from the Rangers' perspective, could be finding the right complementary players for Gaborik.  Looking at the current Rangers roster, third-year centre Brandon Dubinsky may be the best bet to occupy the centre spot, not unlike his play with Jaromir Jagr as a rookie in 2007-2008.

One intriguing aspect to the Rangers' decision to spend big money on Gaborik is that they are once again left vulnerable to possible offers on restricted free agents, including Dubinsky, Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan, all of whom could generate interest from other teams now that the Rangers once again have five players (Gaborik, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival and Henrik Lundqvist) earning more than $5-million per season.

Minnesota's new regime started fresh with a player not unlike Gaborik, signing Martin Havlat.  More on that in its own Numbers Game column.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca

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