Gaborik, who on Wednesday night signed a five-year contract with the New York Rangers reportedly worth $37.5 million, is ready to turn the page after eight successful and stressful seasons with the Minnesota Wild. Gaborik said his contract included a limited no-trade clause.
A 42-goal scorer just two seasons ago, Gaborik, who was limited to 17 games last season due to hip surgery, is joining an offensively starved Rangers' lineup that scored just non-shootout 200 goals in 2008-09. He'll be asked to not only stay healthy, but to score in the 40s again.
If he does stay healthy, there's a good chance he'll do just that.
"I feel great," Gaborik said. "I played the last 11 games of the year and took time off after to try to get to 100 percent. Now I'm fully training and getting ready for the season and I'm very excited. I feel great and I don't see any problems down the road. I am just getting ready for the year, and I'm going to come to training camp in top shape."
Gaborik said the Rangers sold him with a splendid presentation via video that they sent to his house in Slovakia shortly after the free-agent market opened Wednesday. He also said he got a call from Rangers' captain Chris Drury.
He didn't consider re-signing with the Wild because he said new GM Chuck Fletcher never made him a contract offer. Other teams were interested, but Gaborik was too enamored with the Rangers to consider other offers.
"When I hit free agency it was 6 p.m. my time and I got a presentation video sent by (the Rangers) scouts and I watched it and it was unbelievable," Gaborik said. "I felt right away that they were very interested and to me it was very important that they came after me this way. There were a few other teams interested, but it was always coming down to the Rangers in every aspect. When somebody is very interested in you, it feels great and certainly the Rangers were most interested and I felt the most comfortable and confident in. I'm happy I became a Ranger."
He's even happier to have a chance to essentially start over in New York. It can be argued that injuries (and a contract dispute prior to the 2003-04 season) didn't allow Gaborik to meet his full potential during his time in Minnesota.
Gaborik has missed 121 games due to injury since the end of the work stoppage in 2005, including 34 in 2006-07 and 65 this past season.
After playing only six games in the first 2 1/2 months of this past season, Gaborik opted for hip surgery in January and didn't return until late March. When he finally did get back onto the ice, he scored 18 points in the final 11 games.
Gaborik had 219 goals and 218 assists for 437 points in 502 games with the Wild.
"It's been very tough, but this made me stronger," Gaborik said of his injuries. "The toughest part is you see your teammates battling hard and working to get wins and you can't help by watching games. It was a tough time. I'm glad I chose to have surgery last year and it worked out perfectly. Hopefully injuries are behind me and I can focus on just playing hockey and staying healthy. I proved myself in the last 11 games. I had a pretty good run out there."
Which center the 27-year-old right wing plays with is still very much in doubt. It could be Brandon Dubinsky or Drury or even rookie Artem Anisimov. But it also may be someone who isn't even on the Rangers' roster right now.
Since GM Glen Sather had to trade Scott Gomez to Montreal on Tuesday to free up the cap space to sign Gaborik 24 hours later, the Rangers are left without a No. 1 center.
Asked on a conference call Tuesday night if he feels the Rangers have one in the organization or if he has to go get one, Sather paused before saying, "I wouldn't say we don't have one. Dubinsky is capable of being a No. 1 center. If we get a chance to get another player, we're going to do it."
While that remains to be seen, Gaborik's excitement at joining his new team is quite obvious. After eight seasons of playing Jacques Lemaire's ultra-defensive system, Gaborik may be unleashed in John Tortorella's attacking, in-your-face system.
"I'm looking forward to this," Gaborik said. "Definitely the page turned, and I'm starting a new hockey life."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org