Gaborik leaves Wild for Rangers

Updated: July 2, 2009, 12:54 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

Marian Gaborik has landed in the Big Apple.

The star winger has agreed to a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the New York Rangers, leaving the Minnesota Wild via free agency.

[+] EnlargeMarian Gaborik
Dave Reginek/NHLI/Getty ImagesMarian Gaborik figures to be at the forefront of a Rangers offense that scored more than only the Islanders in the East last year.

The deal is worth $7.5 million annually.

"He is an exciting guy to watch play," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said Wednesday night. "He can skate and does a lot of great things. He's a great player and he's young. I certainly think he's in the top 10 in this league."

Gaborik has been limited by injuries for most of his career and has never played 82 games in a season. Last year, he missed 65 games over the course of the season with a hip injury, eventually undergoing surgery in January. Gaborik returned in March and played 17 games. In that time, the Slovak native scored 13 goals and 23 points.

Sather said the Rangers talked with doctors who performed Gaborik's hip surgery that kept him off the ice most of last season. The doctor is confident he will be back in top shape in New York.

"He is very healthy," Sather said. "Mario Lemieux had the surgery that he had. We don't expect that there are going to be any problems."

The Rangers were able to afford Gaborik after trading Scott Gomez to Montreal in a seven-player deal on Tuesday.

Gaborik joins a Rangers squad in the midst of a shift towards coach John Tortorella's uptempo, attack-oriented system. Tortorella took over for Tom Renney in February and attempted to jolt the team out of a defense-first style in the final months of the regular season and postseason.

The Rangers desperately need the scoring a healthy Gabork can provide. He has 219 goals and 437 points in 502 career games and had a career-high 42 goals and 83 points in 77 games as recent as two seasons ago.

Only the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference scored fewer regular-season goals than the Rangers' 210 and their lack of offensive punch led to their first-round playoff elimination against Washington when they blew a 3-1 series lead.

The Rangers' leading scorers were Gomez and free agent Nik Antropov, who was acquired at the trade deadline. The Rangers also parted ways with 20-goal scorer Markus Naslund and the status of RFA Nikoali Zherdev is in question after he faded down the stretch and was benched by Tortorella on several occasions.

Gaborik is now at the forefront of the Rangers' offense. He already proved he could score under the defensive-style system run by former Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.

"Gaborik played under that system and he's got almost a point a game," Sather said. "He's been very productive, so it's going to be very interesting to watch to see how he does with Tortorella's system.

The only question could be how Gaboirk's personality will fit with Tortorella's coaching style as Gaborik's motor in Minnesota has been questioned at times. Recently, Tortorella questioned his team, calling them "soft thinkers," and saying the team had to "change a little bit of the attitude of our club."

Gaborik figures to slide onto the wing of one of the team's top pivots, either captain Chris Drury or Brandon Dubinsky. The Rangers also added 20-goal scorer Christopher Higgins in the Gomez deal and will have a full season from late-season addition Sean Avery.

The Rangers had a complex day Wednesday as they juggled several scenarios. They had discussions with Ottawa, which was looking to trade disgruntled forward Dany Heatley. When a deal couldn't be worked out there, Sather completed negotiations to land Gaborik, for the same money that would have gone to Heatley.

"We had to wait until today before we talked to Gaborik, but I had a pretty good idea that he was interested in coming to New York," Sather said. "It took us a long time to get the deal done, but we're very happy and excited that we got him signed.

"There was more balls than that in the air, but Gaborik was the guy that we targeted from the beginning."

The Rangers moved quickly earlier in the day to sign enforcer Donald Brashear away from the Washington Capitals. Colton Orr, who previously served that role in New York, agreed to a four-year deal with Toronto on Wednesday.

Brashear led the Capitals with 119 penalty minutes, and had one goal and four points in 63 games. In 989 career games with Montreal, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Washington, Brashear has 85 goals, 204 points and 2,561 penalty minutes.

"We think that Brashear gives you a couple of other things," Sather said. "He's quicker, he can get in on the puck a little faster, and under the style of game that we're going to be playing, we just think that he's going to be a little more effective for us."

Brashear was suspended by the NHL for a total of six games -- five for a "blind-side hit" on Rangers center Blair Betts -- during the teams' first-round playoff series.

Sather doesn't think it will be a problem bringing Brashear into the Rangers' dressing room.

"No, I think our players will be excited to have him," Sather said. "They know he's going to be the man. It's a tough job to do, and he's a tough guy and he's very capable of doing it."

The 27-year-old Gaborik was the only remaining player from the Wild's original team, and was the club's first draft pick nine years ago. He holds franchise records for goals (219), assists (218), power play goals (59), game-winning goals (49) and shots on goal (1,694).

Gaborik was the third overall selection out of Slovakia in 2000 and is a two-time All-Star. He has represented his country in World Championships and in the 2006 Torino Olympics where he notched seven points in six games.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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