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Rangers crank up their offense with Gaborik

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Marian Gaborik's career NHL scoring stats are particularly impressive, since he earned them on the Wild's defense-first teams coached by Jacques Lemaire.
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Press Release: Rangers, Gaborik Agree to Terms
Press Release: Brashear Joining Rangers
New Yorker Higgins Excited for Homecoming

By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

When Glen Sather acquired Christopher Higgins in a trade from Montreal in exchange for Scott Gomez on Tuesday, the Rangers President and General Manager stated that the money saved against the salary cap by making that deal provided him with many intriguing options moving forward.

It took Sather just one day to cash in one of those options when the Rangers and high-scoring winger Marian Gaborik agreed on a free-agent contract on Wednesday, several hours after the club had also signed rugged free-agent forward Donald Brashear.

“I know one thing, we are a lot better team with Gaborik and Higgins than we were at the same time last year,” stated Sather. “And we haven’t lost any of our core young players. We’re still building.”

Gaborik is an elite-level offensive talent who has scored 30-or-more goals in five of his eight NHL seasons, including a career-best 42 just two years ago. In 502 career games---all played with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him third overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft -- Gaborik has scored 219 goals and totaled 437 points.

For a team that scored the second fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season, the Rangers are thrilled to have been able to work out a deal with Gaborik just one day after trading for Higgins, who scored a career-high 27 goals two seasons ago. The fact that Gaborik is just 27 years of age and Higgins is 26 makes the past 24 hours that much sweeter for the Blueshirts.

“(Gaborik) is an exciting guy to watch play,” said Sather. “He can skate, and he does a lot of great things. He’s a great player, and he’s young. I certainly think he’s in the top ten in this league.”

Last year, Gaborik underwent hip surgery during the season and was limited to only 17 games worth of action. However, the talented Slovak made the most of his game action by scoring 13 goals and recording 23 points for the Wild.

Upon returning to the lineup following his surgery, Gaborik scored 10 goals and 18 points in the final 11 contests of 2008-09, including a four-point effort against the Islanders on March 25. Gaborik closed out the season by recording points in seven consecutive games, notching 13 points in that stretch.

“We’ve had conversations with our doctors, with the people who did the surgery, with his agent, so we know where he’s at,” Sather said of Gaborik’s operation. “It’s almost the identical surgery Mario Lemieux had. In fact (Michal) Rozsival had that surgery last year. We don’t expect there’s going to be any problems. His health is fine.”

Gaborik -- a two-time NHL All Star -- has built his impressive offensive resume while playing for the defensive-minded Jacques Lemaire in each of his eight seasons so far in the league. It will be interesting to see what kinds of numbers he will be able to put up while skating for John Tortorella in New York, where the style of play will be much more up-tempo and more suited to Gaborik’s natural game.

“Gaborik played under that system and has almost a point per game, and he’s been very productive, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how he does in Tortorella’s system,” Sather said. “We’re going to have a very up-tempo speed game, and this guy fits the bill to a tee.”

While the additions of Gaborik and Higgins -- a three-time 20-goal scorer himself -- will greatly help the Rangers offense, the signing of Brashear adds some punch -- both literally and figuratively -- to the lineup.

Donald Brashear is on track to play in his 1,000th NHL game sometime during the early part of the 2009-10 NHL season.
The 37 year-old Brashear is one of the most feared enforcers in the history of the National Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 234 pound Brashear has plied his craft for 989 games over 15 NHL seasons, totaling 2,561 penalty minutes -- 18th most in league history.

Brashear spent the last three seasons playing for the Washington Capitals. Prior to that he played for the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Montreal Canadiens. As a member of the Canucks during the 1997-98 campaign, Brashear accumulated a career-high 372 penalty minutes.

Although Brashear was suspended by the league for a hit that injured then-Rangers center Blair Betts during the playoffs this past spring, Sather does not believe the veteran enforcer will face any animosity from his new teammates when he walks into the dressing room for the start of training camp in September.

“I think our players will be excited to have him in the room,” said Sather. “They know that he’s going to be the man. That’s a tough job to do, and he’s a tough guy and he’s very capable of doing it.”

While Sather has significantly changed the make-up of the Rangers roster in a span of 24 hours, he may still make even more moves in the coming days.

“We’ve still got some balls in the air, so we’ll see what happens (Thursday),” stated Sather. “At this stage no one really knows what’s going to happen.”
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