Rangers sign Gaborik to five-year blockbuster; Devils lose two

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There are two ways to look at the New York Rangers' decision to sign Marian Gaborik this evening in one of the most significant moves of the Free Agent Frenzy.

1. That the Rangers have, in the last 24 hours, turned Scott Gomez and his seemingly untradeable contract into Marian Gaborik, Christopher Higgins and Ryan McDonagh. In Gaborik, they have a player whose flashes of creativity under the conservative weight of Jacques Lemaire hockey have been tantalizing; one that is two seasons removed from 42 goals and 83 points. They've signed the most purely talented winger the franchise has seen since Jaromir Jagr.

2. Or, that the Rangers have committed $7.5 million annually against the cap for the next five years to a player whose fragility and nagging injuries have become synonymous with his talent. They've invested in a stock that's either boom or bust.

Right now, we're all goofing on the Rangers for breaking the bank and wondering what John Tortorella's profanity-filled reaction will be when Gaborik's misses his 10th straight game with a wonky groin. Which is ignoring the genius of this move by Sather.

For all the taunting of Gaborik's stability, he's only played less than 65 games in a season twice.

Granted, they're sandwiched around that 42-goal effort; but if he can, at a minimum, give the Rangers 65 games of great offensive hockey and then be healthy for the playoffs ... well, one assumes they'll be good enough to make the postseason cut. Especially if his numbers thrive in a new system, with new talent around him.

The Sedins weren't coming to New York. Dany Heatley would have been the safer choice, but he wasn't an option; especially if Brandon Dubinsky had to go the other way. But Gaborik is a better choice than Havlat or Kovalev or any other winger. This is how Sather and Tortorella wanted to build the team -- get a star on the wing rather than a waste of money in the middle. Gaborik was, outside of Hossa, the best option on the open market.

Forget the money -- it's the Rangers. This is what they're supposed to do, and there's always long-term injured reserve for cap relief if things go badly. Besides, they've basically cleared the salaries of Gomez and Markus Naslund and turned them into Gaborik, with money left over. There's no quibbling with that tradeoff.

The gamble is the years, not only because of Gaborik's health but because any multi-year, high-dollar deal in New York City can sour in the span of a few negative tabloid newspaper covers and scathing callers on WFAN. Ask Scotty Gomez about that.

That's the gamble. Sather's taken it. And one gets the sense Gaborik has waiting his entire career to make it pay off.

A few other signings ...

• The Columbus Blue Jackets had a very good day, getting Samuel Pahlsson as their checking center for $7.95 million over three years and Mathieu Garon for $2.4 million over two years. The BeeJays used to have zippy up the middle; now, their centers might go four-deep next year for the first time in franchise history.

• Quote of the Night from Down Goes Brown after Chris Neil inked a new deal with the Ottawa Senators: "$8M for Neil sounds about right. I'm assuming it's a 20-year deal?" Ha! Four years, $8 million for the pest. Neil, not the other pest that's making $1.3 million next season.

End of an era in New Jersey: The great checking duo of Madden and Pandolfo has been broken up, as John Madden signs a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. That's a fantastic deal for the Hawks; he fits their style perfectly, he's still got something in the tank and he's gone before the Hossa-created cap hell of next summer.

• Finally, the New Jersey Devils lose Brian Gionta to a 5-year, $25 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens, who will presumably reunite him with Scott Gomez. It's only a $1 million raise on his cap hit; wonder if the years were the issue for the Devils and other suitors. Bob Gainey appears to be creating a team that's quick, offensive and isn't tall enough to ride most roller coasters.

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