‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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The New York Rangers spent a large portion of the last ten years paying out mega-bucks to unworthy free agent misfits.  Thankfully, things have changed as they now possess two sure-fire stars that are capable of carrying the Blueshirts when required.

Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards are paid like superstars because they are genuine superstars.  Sounds simple right?  Well, that wasn’t always the case for the Rangers who were once synonymous with attaching themselves to albatross contracts.

The 5-year, $45 million dollar contract that Glen Sather bestowed upon Bobby Holik in the summer of 2002 set the standard for the worst possible misallocation of funds imaginable.  Sather seemed to make the same mistake repeatedly as a parade of overpaid, overrated players all found a home at Madison Square Garden.

That’s not to say that Sather didn’t make his share of shrewd signings.  Michael Nylander and Martin Straka turned out to be great-value additions but when it came to landing the ‘big fish free agent’ that could change the Rangers’ fortunes, Sather continually dropped the ball.

Matt Cullen turned out to be a disastrous signing and was quickly shipped to Carolina after one season with the Rangers but that was only the tip of the iceberg for what laid ahead.  On opening day of free agency on July 1st, 2007, the Rangers leaped to sign Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to deals that paid each over $7 million dollars annually.

Sather couldn’t contain his excitement upon landing the free agent duo.  “It’s pretty exciting.  We ranked them both as number ones, and we never expected to get both of them,” he declared.

The Devils wisely parted ways with Gomez, who had reached the peak of his talents in New Jersey while Drury recorded a career-high point total in his final season with the Sabres.  Drury was surrounded by talent in Buffalo but didn’t have the kind of supporting cast in New York to be as effective.  Neither player could raise their game to the level needed to match production seen with their previous employers.

Jaromir Jagr was forced to do the offensive heavy lifting as Sather failed to supply his superstar captain with the kind of players that could propel Rangers into something more than just a ‘one-man show.’

Fast-forward to 2011.  The present-day Rangers are the complete opposite of failing teams of the past.  They’re now stocked with dependable role players and right kind of stars who fit into John Tortorella’s ‘team ethos.’  Much of that credit goes to Sather who shied away from his free-spending habits.

Instead of going for the usual quick-fix, Sather relied upon his scouts to identify talent and allowed his minor-league staff to nurture their development.  Sather waited patiently for the right free agents to come along in Richards and Gaborik who aren’t only consistent point-getters but able to make frequent game-winning contributions.

It’s such a refreshing change for Rangers fans who are used to watching big-name stars crumble under the pressure.  Gaborik and Richards have proven their mettle and will continue to delight the Blueshirt faithful.

Rangers fans – can Gaborik and Richards take the Blueshirts to the next level?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.


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