|Marian Gaborik, the face of a franchise though the Minnesota Wild's first eight years, said he has been extremely impressed with the Rangers organization and the interest the team showed in him once the free-agency period began. |
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.comMarian Gaborik
’s first foray into unrestricted free agency began Wednesday at 6 p.m. local time in his native Slovakia, and it did not take him long to realize that the Rangers were going to be his next playing destination.
At precisely 6 p.m., a Rangers scout arrived at Gaborik’s residence with a video presentation for the former Minnesota Wild star, while the club simultaneously began serious conversation with Gaborik’s agent.
By pursuing Gaborik so aggressively, the Rangers immediately put themselves ahead of all the other teams interested in the high-scoring winger’s services. It wasn’t too long before Gaborik agreed to a multi-year deal to become a New York Ranger.
“I watched (the video) and it was unbelievable; and right away I thought they were very interested,” explained the 27-year-old Gaborik. “It was very important they came after me this way. There were a few other teams interested, but it always came down to the Rangers. When someone is very interested in you it feels great and certainly the Rangers were the most interested in me. I am really happy to be a Ranger.”
Shortly after the free agency period officially began on Wednesday, Gaborik also fielded recruiting phone calls from Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella, team captain Chris Drury, and winger Aaron Voros, who is a good friend of Gaborik’s from their days spent as teammates in Minnesota. Gaborik also spoke with friends like Martin Rucinsky, Marcel Hossa, and Richard Lintner, who all played previously with the Rangers, to find out exactly what life on Broadway was all about.
Everything he heard and was told about the Rangers made his decision that much easier to make.
“They all had nothing but good things to say about the New York organization,” said Gaborik, whose 219 career goals and 437 points are both Minnesota Wild franchise records. “Everyone was impressed by the organization. So I am looking forward to this and am excited.”
Gaborik was the third overall selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and has played all of his 502 games with the Wild, so leaving Minnesota for New York is somewhat bittersweet for him. Making his decision to leave Minnesota less difficult was the fact that the Wild did not make him a contract offer on Wednesday.
“I’ve only experienced playing in the NHL with one team, eight years in Minnesota, and I had a great time there,” said Gaborik. “Obviously this is a big change and a big opportunity. Life brings a lot of changes, and it’s starting to hit me now that I am becoming a Ranger and it’s very exciting. The page turned (Wednesday) and I am starting a new hockey life.”
Gaborik, who was referred to as “one of the top ten in this league” by Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather on Wednesday, is hoping to turn the page on something else, as well, when he arrives in New York.
Injuries to his hip and groin the past several seasons have kept Gaborik off the ice much more than he would have liked. In 2006-07, Gaborik was limited to just 48 games played. And then after recording a career-high 42 goals the following season, Gaborik played in only 17 games last year as he missed three months after undergoing hip surgery.
However, after returning from the surgery and the ensuing physical rehabilitation, Gaborik showed what he could accomplish when healthy. Gaborik closed out the 2008-09 campaign by recording 18 points (10-8-18) in the final 11 contests. Included in that mix were a goal against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 24, a pair of three-point outings, and a season-best four-point game against the Islanders on March 25.
“I feel great, and I don’t see any problems down the road,” Gaborik stated confidently. “I will be coming to training camp in top shape.”
When he is healthy and playing at the top of his game, Gaborik is an elite offensive talent. Five times in his eight years in Minnesota, Gaborik scored at least 30 goals. And twice he was selected to play in the National Hockey League All Star Game.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 200 pound Gaborik is also a big-game player, one not afraid of stepping up when the spotlight shines brightest. In 2003 he led the Wild to the Western Conference Finals by recording nine goals and 17 points in 18 playoff matches; and he had seven points (3-4-7) in six games during the 2006 Winter Olympics while representing Slovakia.
What Gaborik provides the Rangers is multi-fold. He is an excellent special teams player, for instance, both on the power play and while killing penalties. But his true value will be in giving the Blueshirts something they did not have a year ago: a bonafide sniper.
Certainly Henrik Lundqvist
can attest to that fact. Two years ago Lundqvist and his Rangers teammates were victimized by Gaborik’s incredible five-goal, six-point performance in a 6-3 Wild victory over the Blueshirts out in St. Paul, Minn.
“That night was just something,” remembered Gaborik. “(Lundqvist) is a great goaltender, but I guess when you are in the zone and everything you touch goes in, that’s what happens.
“Hopefully I can have that kind of game in a Rangers uniform.”