For a team that is searching for goals to trade their top scorer in two of the past three years is unusual. But the Rangers, battling for a playoff spot, did just that at the trade deadline Wednesday.
In a blockbuster swap with Columbus -- almost nine months after acquiring the Blue Jackets leading scorer, Rick Nash, in a trade -- the Rangers sent Marian Gaborik and two minor-league defensemen to Columbus for center Derick Brassard, winger Derek Dorsett, defenseman John Moore and a 6th-round draft pick in 2014.
Coach John Tortorella said he "will miss Gaborik" and predicted a solid finish in Columbus. "He was getting chances and coming on in the last few games," he said.
Gaborik, 33, by far the top player in the transaction, has scored 30 or more goals seven times, but has been in a season-long funk since undergoing labrum surgery in the summer. He had just nine goals, and was in and out of Tortorella's doghouse, occasionally benched. He was demoted to the fourth line last week. When the pair had a very long, public, heart-to-heart on the ice at the end of practice in Ottawa last week, it appeared that a turning point in their relationship had occurred.
After the trade, Gaborik told TSN that it was good to be going to a team "that wanted him." Later, on a conference call, Gaborik, who was picked up by a Columbus private jet, said he's talked with ex-Rangers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. "I'm looking forward to playing with them again," he said. "You can see this team is going in the right direction."
Moving Gaborik, who has a cap hit of $7.5 million next season, helps the Rangers in providing some cap flexibility, which will be needed, in part, to re-sign restricted free agents Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin, Tortorella said. And the trio should fill "some holes in the middle of our lineup," he said.
The Rangers also got younger: Brassard, 25, started by centering the third line Wednesday night; Moore, 22 was on the third defensive pair. Dorsett, 26, sidelined with a broken clavicle, is out up to three more weeks. In effect, they are replacing some of the bodies lost in the off-season in the Nash trade and free agency.