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Rangers Sign Free Agent Defenseman Darius Kasparaitis

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

"One of our goals this off-season was to strengthen our team defense and toughness and the signing of Darius Kasparaitis accomplishes that goal," said Sather. "He is one of the most competitive players in the National Hockey League and we look forward to adding his fiery style of play to our hockey club.”

Kasparaitis, 29, appeared in 80 matches with the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins last season, registering two goals and 12 assists for 14 points, along with 142 penalty minutes. He ranked second in the NHL with 373 hits and was tied for 33rd with 142 penalty minutes. Kasparaitis registered 14 points and 123 penalty minutes in 69 games with Pittsburgh prior to being traded to Colorado on March 19. As a member of the Avalanche, he registered 19 penalty minutes in 11 regular season matches. In Stanley Cup playoff action, Kasparaitis appeared in a career-high 21 contests, registering three assists and 18 penalty minutes, while helping Colorado reach the Western Conference Finals. He ranked first on the team and second in the NHL during the post-season with 112 hits.

A veteran of 10 NHL seasons, Kasparaitis has appeared in 648 regular season matches with Colorado, Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, registering 21 goals and 108 assists for 129 points, along with 1,119 penalty minutes. He began his NHL career with the Islanders in 1992-93, establishing career-highs in all major offensive categories, with four goals and 17 assists for 21 points in 79 matches. In 232 matches on Long Island, Kasparaitis registered six goals and 40 assists for 46 points, along with 439 penalty minutes. As a member of the Penguins, he recorded 15 goals and 68 assists for 83 points, along with 661 penalty minutes in 405 matches.

The 5-11, 205-pounder has skated in 81 career playoff matches, collecting two goals and 10 assists for 12 points, along with 107 penalty minutes. During the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Kasparaitis tallied the game-winning goal at 13:01 of overtime in Game Seven at Buffalo, sending Pittsburgh to the Eastern Conference Finals against New Jersey.

Kasparaitis is a three-time Olympian, appearing with the Commonwealth of Independent States at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France and with the Russian Olympic squad at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan and the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. He captured the gold medal in 1992, the silver medal in 1998 and a bronze medal in 2002. In addition to his Olympic experience, Kasparaitis also participated in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, won a pair of medals at the World Junior Championships in 1991 (silver) and 1992 (gold) and skated in two World Hockey Championships (1992, 1996).

The Elektrenai, Lithuania native was originally the New York Islanders' first round choice, fifth overall, in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to Pittsburgh from Long Island, along with Andreas Johansson, in exchange for Bryan Smolinski on November 17, 1996. Kasparaitis was acquired by Colorado from Pittsburgh on March 19, 2002, in exchange for Rick Berry and Ville Nieminen.
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