The initial reaction to the idea of a trade involving speedy sniper Marian Gaborik is almost always the question, "why would the Rangers sell?" But looking at the trading game, even approaching the deadline, as a simple buy/sell dichotomy is simple-minded. The reason why the Rangers - now tied for 8th spot in the East with the familiar Islanders - would trade Marian Gaborik isn't because they're giving up on their season, it's because a) they might hope to bring back forward depth, something which was lost when they acquired Rick Nash over the summer, and b) they need to clear cap space for next season.
The second point is the key. But before I get to that, here is a Q&A I did with Blueshirt Banter Managing Editor, Joe Fortunato regarding the Slovakian winger.
Me: There seems to be the idea around the league that Gaborik isn't a playoff performer, since his point totals seem to decrease during that time. Would you agree with this, and should a team acquiring him be worried about it?
Joe: I would vehemently disagree with that assessment. Gaborik played through 90% of last year's playoffs with an injured shoulder. He still did really well (considering the Rangers as a whole couldn't score). Look at his numbers across the board and they're not bad (35 points in 54 games). Do you expect more points? Yes, but those don't always tell the whole story.
Me: Is it correct to say that there have been issues between Gaborik and Tortorella this year? And as a result, considering he's a highly paid player on a team with limited cap space, what are the chances that you think the Rangers will trade him?
Joe: I think the relationship issues between Tortorella and Gaborik are swelled beyond reality thanks to the media and the fans. Tortorella is a hard coach on everyone, and he's always jumbling lines. Is he frustrated with Gaborik's play? Of course. So is Gaborik. The two had a 12-minute conversation alone at practice yesterday (with Tortorella doing most of the talking) and Gaborik said it was a good conversation. Do I think Gaborik gets traded this year? Not unless the right deal comes along -- which won't happen by the deadline in my opinion. The draft? That's a different story.
Me: If he were to be traded, what would the Rangers be looking for in return, specifically from a team like Montreal?
Joe: This could go one of two ways. If he gets moved at the deadline the Rangers would need an impact player back to help for their playoff run. If he gets moved at the draft look for a first round pick and top prospects (or young talent). We'll take Subban off your hands, too ;)
With all due respect, Joe, you've already robbed us of a defenseman who might win the Norris someday. We don't need you taking one who might win it this year. But thanks for the responses.
Possession metrics seem to back up the claims that Joe makes with regards to the playoffs, as Gaborik is consistently among the top Corsi players on his team, albeit facing moderate competition. The slight drop in points, although largely exaggerated by those who claim he becomes "invisible", can be explained by the fact that his on-ice shooting percentage during the Rangers' run to the conference finals last year was only 7.09. Perhaps more relevant for a scorer, Gaborik's personal shooting percentages in his two playoff trips with New York were 5.0 and 8.3, respectively. That number during this season, in which he has put up only 9 goals and 19 points in 33 games, is 8.7 percent.
Gaborik's career shooting percentage? 13.1. Shooting at that rate this year, he would have 13 goals rather than 9, and pro-rated over the course of a season that turns Marian from a 22 into a 32 goal scorer. So take any playoff considerations, and his performance so far this year, with a serious grain of salt.
But back to the cap issue. Joe believes that a trade for Gaborik is more likely at the draft. His reasoning for this, I presume, is simple. The Rangers aren't sellers, and they wouldn't trade him at this point simply for picks and prospects - as he alluded to. They would need good NHL players in return, and it's doubtful at this point a package would come along that would make them a better team today. That said, come summertime, GM Glen Sather may not have a choice. The Rangers already have $54 million committed to 17 players for next season, but among those unsigned? RFAs Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Carl Hagelin. $11 million to sign those three players and probably a few more? Good luck.
Ultimately, I believe that Gaborik would fit in incredibly well with the speedy Canadiens. He could play secondary minutes on a line with Eller or Desharnais, and could be a powerplay monster. The question, obviously, is what Bergevin could possibly give up to interest Sather at this point. In theory, a package of a Michael Ryder (pending UFA, can help team make the playoffs this year but then frees up cap space), a grit guy like Travis Moen that can move up the lineup, and a 2nd round pick might do it. Of course, Ryder has been on a tear so that probably wouldn't happen.
So what do people think? Will the Rangers move Gaborik before April 2nd? Would you want him on the Canadiens? What would be the price you'd be willing to pay?