You can't blame the New York Rangers for having an interest in free agent forward Marian Gaborik this offseason. A team that was lacking the offensive firepower it never replaced when Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka left the Big Apple a year ago, the Rangers signed Gaborik to a five-year, $37.5 million contract on July 2, 2009. It's a couple of big numbers for a guy that has quite a lengthy track record of injuries.
We know Gaborik can play, but how much will he play? That's the question that will determine whether this signing will be remembered as a turning point for the Rangers franchise, or simply another mistake in a long line of free agency futility.
Even though the 26-year-old has played more than 75 games just three times in his eight-year career, Gaborik has recorded five 30-goal seasons, including a career-high 42 in 2007-08. What makes the numbers even more impressive is the fact he's spent his entire career playing in Jacques Lemaire's defense-first system with Minnesota. Of the hundreds of players Lemaire has coached in the NHL, only six of them have ever scored 30 goals in a single season: Marian Gaborik (five times), Brian Rolston (three times), John Maclean, Stephane Richer, Mario Tremblay and Mats Naslund. That has to be worth something, right?
Draft Year: 2000
The very first player ever selected by the Minnesota Wild, Gaborik went third overall behind Rick Dipietro and Dany Heatley.
Why He's On My List
If he's not the fastest skater in the NHL, he has to be in the top-five. A two-time All-Star, Gaborik is currently one of the top players in the league when it comes to goals-per-game. According to the rankings at Hockey-Reference.com, only Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk and Marian Hossa have averaged more goals-per-game than Gaborik over their careers. Since the lockout, he's averaged 1.10 points-per-game, and it should be interesting to see what he's capable of playing in New York. If he can avoid injuries, 40 goals and 85 points shouldn't be out of the question.
Obligatory YouTube Video
Marian Gaborik, playing for his old team, the Minnesota Wild, scores five goals against his new team, the New York Rangers.