Glen Sather’s Top 50 BEST Decisions: Part One

Sather gets Stepan to re-sign. (NYDN)

This is Part One of a Five-Part series ranking and evaluating Sather’s greatest decisions during his tenure as NY Rangers’ General Manager. Sather served as Rangers’ GM for 15 years, being hired on May 29, 2000 and stepping down July 1, 2015.

    Top 50 Greatest Moves (#41 to #50)

#50 – Acquiring G Antti Raanta for F Ryan Haggerty (June 27, 2015):

In one of Sather’s final trades of his tenure, and shortly after liquidating G Cam Talbot for draft picks; the Rangers sent minor leaguer Haggerty to the Chicago Blackhawks for Raanta. Sather quickly filled the gap left by Talbot for the 26-year-old Raanta. Haggerty, the former R.P.I. collegiate standout, has yet to play a single NHL game after one season in the AHL, where he ranked 6th on the team in points. Raanta, crowded by Chicago netminders Corey Crawford & Scott Darling, has a respectable record of 20-9-5 (.912 sv% & 2.41 GAA) in 39 career NHL games. Time will tell, but in the present it seems like a fine deal for the Rangers heading into the 2015-16 season.

#49 – Acquiring F Fredrik Sjostrom, F Josh Gratton, G David LeNeveu & a 5th Round Draft Pick for G Al Montoya & F Marcel Hossa (February 26, 2008):

While this trade featured a lot of names but not a lot of NHL-calibre standout, the Rangers ultimately got the best of it. Sjostrom would go on to play 114 games with the Rangers, contributing the most with Blair Betts as New York’s superbly-effective penalty killing tandem. Montoya, a disappointing #6 overall draft pick, continues to serve as nothing more than an NHL backup goalie to this day. The Rangers were the #1 penalty-killing team in the NHL during the Betts/Sjostrom era, leading Larry Brooks to speculate if the duo was the best in Rangers’ history.

#48 – Signing D Marek Malik (August 2, 2005):

Marek Malik scores the game winning goal in the 15 round of a shootout

Marek Malik scores the game winner in the 15th round of a shootout (Photo: Neil Miller)

There’s few characters like that of Malik to have donned the Broadway Blueshirts’ jersey. He was not a particularly noticeable signing at the time, but proved to be somewhat of an enigma. The surprise of Malik going on to lead the entire league in +/- in the 2005-06 season was as symbolic of the Rangers’ out-of-nowhere regular season success as Jaromir Jagr‘s record-breaking offense or Henrik Lundqvist‘s outstanding rookie campaign. Even with Malik’s historic ‘through-the-legs’ shootout winner against Washington on November 26, 2005… He ultimately never secured fans’ trust nor support when the game was on the line, particularly in postseasons. Malik even found himself the blueseat fans’ “whipping boy” following the departure of Tom Poti. Nevertheless, Sather’s decision to reunite Malik with head coach Tom Renney (the two had been together in Vancouver previously) turned out to be a respectable and fruitful one, even if both player and coach are now a casual afterthought in Rangers’ history.

#47 – Acquiring G Jussi Markkanen & a 4th Round Draft Pick for nothing (June 30, 2003):

Okay, perhaps not actually “nothing,” but ultimately it may as well have been. On the eve of the 2003 offseason, Sather traded Brian Leetch to the Edmonton Oilers. Leetch’s contract expired hours after the trade, making him an unrestricted free agent, where Leetch would re-sign with Broadway a month later. Markkanen would only play 26 games for the Rangers, backing up Mike Dunham in the 2003-04 season, putting up a respectable .913 sv% & 2.56 GAA. Less than a year later, Markkanen would be traded back to Edmonton. Renting a competent goaltender usually costs a draft pick, but in this case, Sather actually managed to gain one.

#46 – Acquiring F Pascal DuPuis for F Adam Hall (February 9, 2007):

Dupuis’s stint on Broadway was less than a month, as he would be traded to the Atlanta Thrashers later that February. But purely examining the trade itself, as minor as it may have been: it’s hard to call this anything but a solid move on Sather’s part. Hall, a relative bust of an intended 4th line NYR addition, would not compare to the career Dupuis would go on to have (and still has, according to reports).

#45 – Signing F Matt Cullen (July 1, 2006):

When deciding to let center Steve Rucchin go following the 2005-06 season, Sather replaced his spot with Cullen, whom inked a 4-year, $2.8 million/year contract on the first day of free agency. While Cullen would be traded back to his previous team, the Carolina Hurricanes, a year later; Cullen delivered while in New York. The Rangers would go on to win their first playoff series in 10 years in the 2006-07 season, with Cullen notching the game-winning goal against the Atlanta Thrashers in Game 4 of the sweep.

#44 – Acquiring D Mike Vernace & a 3rd Round Draft Pick for Wojtek Wolski (February 25, 2012):

It sure seemed like an odd trade, considering Wolski had notched 25 points in 51 games as a Ranger, and had turned only 26 years old the day before. Vernace, a career minor-leaguer, and an additional 3rd rounder, didn’t seem like a particularly juicy return. And yet Wolski would defect to the KHL only 51 NHL games & 18 points later, rendering the deal yet another retrospectively satisfying “something for nothing” trade.

#43 – Acquiring F Matthew Barnaby for F Zdeno Ciger (December 12, 2001):

At the time of the trade, Barnaby had gone 33 consecutive NHL games without registering a single point! He had led the league in penalty minutes the year before, and seemed like a player with ostensibly little to offer Broadway. However, once joining the Rangers, Barnaby would score 21 points in 48 games the remainder of the 2001-02 season. In fact, Barnaby would go on to have a higher points-per-game rate with New York than he did in Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay. Ciger, on the other hand, would only play 27 more NHL games before defecting back to Slovakia the following summer.

#42 – Signing F Ruslan Fedotenko (October 4, 2010 & July 1, 2011):

Albeit a minor footnote, it’s worth mentioning that both of Fedotenko’s seasons were solid performances for the lowly-paid 3rd/4th line winger. Having been reunited with head coach John Tortorella for the first time since Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Era, “Feds” helped anchor the 2011-12 Rangers team that made a run all the way to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, even scoring a pair of goals in the series. Overall, Fedotenko notched 54 points in 164 games as a Ranger, which is not bad considering he was originally invited to the 2010 training camp on a tryout basis.

#41 – Acquiring F Martin Rucinsky three times in less than four years (March 12, 2002 via trade; August 28, 2003 via free agency; August 3, 2005 via free agency):

Rucinsky

Rucinsky

Rucinsky isn’t a name that sparks intense love or appreciation for Rangers fans, but ultimately his wonderful production for the team lands him on this list. Let’s start with his first coming…

Sather acquired Rucinsky & F Roman Lyashenko from the Dallas Stars for F Manny Malhotra & F Barrett Heisten. Malhotra went on to have a respectable career as a 4th line center, despite being drafted #7 overall in 1998. Heisten fizzled out quickly, only playing 10 NHL games (all for the Rangers pre-trade). Lyashenko, quite tragically, took his own life 16 months later, so his potential place in the NHL will forever be unknown. Empirically, Rucinsky was the biggest piece in the deal, and going Sather’s way, and would score 13 points in 15 games before leaving for the St. Louis Blue via free agency the following summer.

In his second stint, Rucinsky would sign with New York a year later, placing third on the team in scoring during the 2003-04 season, before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks amidst the infamous 2004 Broadway rebuilding. After the 2005 lockout, Ruckinsky would return to New York a third and final time, scoring 55 points in 52 games, alongside fellow Czechs Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Petr Prucha, Michal Rozsival & Marek Malik. Rucinsky would once again leave for St. Louis via free agency the following summer.

Ultimately Rucinsky notched 111 points in 138 games as a Ranger, which would be the highest points-per-game rate for any of the 7 NHL teams he would play for in his prolific career. Nobody can argue Sather’s bang-for-buck with Rucinsky, during any of the three occasions, was anything short of beneficial or worthwhile.

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READ Part TWO of this series, as we will gradually unveil Sather’s Top 50 BEST moves as Rangers’ General Manager. Follow me on Twitter at @HockeyStatMiner, and follow all of Full Tilt’s Ranger coverage at @NYR_FullTilt.