A tale of two Sathers and how the salary cap saved the Rangers
Glen Sather took over as the Rangers General Manger in the summer of 2000. The Rangers finished that year with another losing record and missed the playoffs for a third straight season. Neil Smith, the architect of the Rangers only championship since 1940 was dismissed with the hopes that Sather would bring his team building savvy to New York.
The thought was simple; imagine what Glen Sather could accomplish if he had a little money?
2000: So what did Glen Sather do after years of having to sell off stars like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier? He spent like a drunken sailor on shore leave after a long deployment. His first order of business was to sign inconsistent 31 year old defenseman, Vlad Malakhov to a 4 year deal at $3.5M per. That summer, he also brought back a 39 year old Mark Messier, for 2 seasons at $5.5M per year. The Rangers missed the playoffs again.
2001: Spending Slats wasn’t done there, because his response to the Rangers missing the playoffs for a 4th straight year? Signing a 32 year old Zdeno Ciger for 2 years at $3.5M after not having played in the NHL since 1996. The result…missing the playoffs for a 5th straight year.
2002: At this point, Sather had to have come to his senses and realize throwing money at a problem wasn’t the answer right? HELL NO! In what is one of the worst signings in UFA history, Sather gave 3rd line center, Bobby Holik a monster deal for $45M over 5 years! Holik was 31 at the time of the signing. Slats also added 29 year old defenseman, Darius Kasparitis for 6 years at $25.5M. The Rangers missed the playoffs again.
2003: How do you respond to missing the playoffs for 6 straight years (3 on Slats’ watch)? Well you give $13M over 4 seasons to a 30 year old bottom pair blue liner named Greg de Vries. Then you bring back old Rangers like Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, Alexei Kovalev, and Jan Hlavac so you can miss the playoffs for a 7th straight year.
2004: Although the Rangers would miss the playoffs again, Sather limited his ridiculous spending to Michael Nylander. His best moves were promoting Tom Renney to head coach, bringing in Benoit Allaire, and trading for Jaromir Jagr.
Thankfully the Lock Out Resulted in the Salary Cap
The 2004-2005 season was cancelled and eventually the owners won and a salary cap was implemented. This forced Glen Sather to go back to his roots and focus on younger players and draft picks. He could no longer go free agent fishing at will.
Over the next 10 seasons, homegrown talent like Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, and Chris Kreider would play prominent roles in a streak where the Rangers made the playoffs 9 out of 10 times with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Sather finished his turn as the GM in 2015.
A Painful Lesson Learned
Glen Sather has always believed that a winning team needs to be built from within. That your core must grow up together, just like his baby Oilers before they turned into a dynasty. Sadly, once Sather was given the opportunity to spend at will, he took the temptation so many other GM’s previously in his place had and ran wild with it.
This is a lesson current GM, Jeff Gorton seems to live by and his move to rebuild is the right one. The Rangers enter this season with one of the youngest lineups it has ever had. It is this group of young players like Chytil, Andersson, Skjei, and Buchnevich that will form the core of what is hopefully a championship team on Broadway.