Quick Hits: Rangers Deal Gaborik at the Deadline

By: Michael Abitabilo

The New York Rangers have traded all-star forward Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for three players.  In doing so, the Rangers, who are last in the league in scoring, traded away a player who ranks 7th in the league in goals scored since arriving in New York at the start of the 2009-2010 season.

Unlike the Rangers’ earlier acquisition of Ryane Clowe, this trade is about next year.  As part of the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and the players’ union agreed to a prorated 2013 salary cap of $70.2 million, which is equal to last year’s salary cap figure. Next year, however, the salary cap is projected to drop to around $64.3 million.  According to capgeek.com, with Gaborik on the books, the Rangers would have had about $51 million committed in 2013-2014 salary figures, with rising stars such as Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan in line for significant raises as they become restricted free agents, and not including any money the Rangers will spend to sign their own or other team’s unrestricted free agents.

In exchange for Gaborik, the Rangers will receive forwards Derek Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and defenseman John Moore. Brassard will add some skill and Dorsett will add more grit, while Moore is a young defenseman with good size (6’3”, 200 lbs) and offensive upside.  In Columbus, Gaborik will be reunited with former teammates Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon, all of whom were acquired in the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Rangers last off-season.

While Rangers fans might be disappointed that Gaborik has been traded – or more specifically over the lack of significant (i.e. well-known) players received in return, there is reason for optimism.  Keep in mind, the last time the Rangers similarly dumped a high-priced, under-performing forward, they sent Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens for a package that included Christopher Higgins and a young defensive prospect named Ryan McDonagh, who has since emerged as one of the best young defensemen in the game.  (Coincidentally, the Rangers used the cap-space they saved by unloading Gomez’s salary to sign Gaborik the following off-season).

The reality is, once the Rangers traded for Nash, Gaborik’s days as a Ranger were numbered. The only question remaining was whether he would play out his contract or be traded at some point before the end of the 2013-2014 season. Having been shifted to the left-wing for much of this season, Gaborik was underperforming and was not a consistent offensive threat, despite his pedigree.  The Rangers did well to bring back a pair of versatile forwards and a solid defensive prospect, while freeing up significant cap space for next season.