Glen Sather’s Top 50 BEST Decisions: Part Three

Shanahan (Getty Images)

 

Marian Gaborik 2012 MVP (nhl)

Marian Gaborik 2012 MVP (nhl)

This is Part Three of a Five-Part series ranking and evaluating Sather’s greatest (and not-so-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.

For Part One (#41 to #50), Click Here
For Part Two (#31 to #40), Click Here

    Top 50 Greatest Moves (#21 to #30)

#30 – Signing F Michael Nylander (August 10, 2004):

There wasn’t much noise when Sather signed unrestricted free agent center Nylander to a 3-year contract in the weeks proceeding the infamous 2005 NHL lockout. Little did fans know, the Straka-Nylander-Jagr line of 2005-2007 would be turn out to be an offensive juggernaut on Broadway. Nylander would notch 176 points in 174 games as a Ranger (55 goals, 121 assists) during his stint, before being replaced via free agency with Chris Drury & Scott Gomez as center additions in the summer of 2008. To be fair, Nylander would only play 115 NHL games after his career as a Broadway Blueshirt, signing with Washington (not Edmonton!) in 2007 before playing his final game in 2009.

On April 12, 2007; Nylander became the first Ranger to score a game-winning postseason goal since Mark Messier‘s GWG on May 8, 1997.

#29 – Signing F Marian Gaborik (July 1, 2009):

Despite missing most of the 2008-09 NHL season with a groin injury, Rangers fan were ecstatic when Sather inked Gabs to a 5-year, $37.5 million contract on the opening day of the 2009 free agency off-season. And, ultimately, Gaborik delivered. While he was traded to Columbus before his contract would expire, Gabs ended up notching 120 goals, 122 assists & 242 points in 280 games. He would help lead the 2012 Rangers to their first Eastern Conference Finals birth in 15 years, including a memorable TRIPLE-OVERTIME GOAL against Washington in Game 3 of the second round.

#28 – Acquiring a 3rd Round Draft Pick for F Derek Dorsett (June 27, 2014):

While this summer’s trade of Zac Rinaldo for a 3rd Round Draft Pick has been hailed as quite a steal, we would surely be remiss to forget Sather’s similar unloading of 4th-line winger Dorsett to Vancouver for the same return. Dorsett, acquired in the Gaborik trade of 2013, had an ultimately forgettable stint on Broadway… putting up only 4 goals, 6 assists & 10 points in 85 games. That pick would ultimately become F Keegan Iverson, a Rangers prospect currently playing in the WHL. Unfortunately, the $1,633,333 in salary cap space alleviated for Sather in this trade would be mostly wasted as Tanner Glass would sign for $1,450,000/year a few days later.

#27 – Signing F Martin Straka (August 2, 2005):

Straka (NYR)

Straka (NYR)

Akin to Sather’s free-agency signing of Nylander between the 2004 & 2006 seasons, there wasn’t much initial notice taken to the signing of Straka to a 1-year contract (of which he would re-sign 1-year deals in 2006 & 2007). Yet, Straka would help feed Jaromir Jagr en route to his record-breaking 2006 season. In fact, Straka would lead the offensively-stacked 2005-06 Rangers in Power Play Assists (29). Overall, Straka would notch 70 goals, 137 assists & 207 points in his 248 games as a Ranger. Straka would defer back to the Czech league in the summer of 2008, shortly after Jagr’s Broadway tenure ended as well. Here’s one of his nifty goals from the 2008 playoffs.

#26 – Signing D Dan Girardi to his 1st, 2nd & 3rd NHL contracts (July 1, 2006; February 16, 2008; & July 9, 2010):

For any teenager unlikely to be a part of the NHL draft following their 18th or 19th birthday… Dan Girardi is a straight-up inspiration. He went undrafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, signed a two-way contract in the minors, and went from ECHL to AHL to NHL in 18 months. Since his call-up to the NHL on January 27, 2007 (following re-assigment of D Darius Kasparitis), he has remained on the Rangers’ NHL roster ever since. While his offense has been minimal, Girardi’s exceptional attendance rate since breaking into the major league has been nothing short of extraordinary (he’s only missed 5 games due to injury in his 759 games played since 2007!). He signed a 2-year $533,333/year contract as his entry-level deal, a 2-year $1,550,000/year contract as his 2nd NHL deal and a 4-year $3,325,000/year deal as his 3rd NHL deal.

While Girardi’s 4th and most recent 6-year, $5,500,000/year contract has raised eyebrows… There’s little doubt his first trio of NHL contracts were wonderfully valuable signings for Sather and company. If you’re wondering how tough the guy is, consider he led all Rangers skaters in icetime last postseason, despite harboring a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his knee!

In the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Girardi notched both game-winning-goals for both of New York’s wins in the series, coming in Game 1 & Game 3.

#25 – Signing F Brendan Shanahan (July 9, 2006):

Shanahan

Shanahan

Sather’s 2005-06 season was successful in the sense of clinching the Rangers’ first playoff birth since 1997, but pitiful in the sense of suffering a four-game sweep in the opening round against the rival New Jersey Devils. And with the departures of forwards Martin Rucinsky, Petr Sykora & Steve RucchinSather opted to sign future-hall-of-famer Shanahan to a 1-year, $4 million deal. It’s hard to argue that decision was anything but successful.

Shanahan scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in his Rangers debut on the first game of the 2006-07 season. That game-winner was also his 600th career NHL goal, becoming only the 15th player in history to accomplish such a feat. While totaling 29 goals, 33 assists & 62 points in 67 games that season, Shanny quickly became loved and adored by the Garden faithful. He won the first-ever Mark Messier Leadership Award, was named to this 8th and final NHL All-Star game (where he served as captain of Team Eastern Conference), and the 37-year-old even fought with fisticuffs heavyweight Donald Brashear.

Shanahan helped pioneer the Rangers to their first playoff game victory in a decade, tallying game-winners in Game 2 of the first round against Atlanta, as well as Game 4 in the second round against Buffalo. Shanny finished with 5 goals, 2 assists and 7 points in the 10 postseason games that spring. He would play one more season with the Rangers in 2007-08, but Shanahan eventually retired in 2009. While his time was short and sweet on Broadway, fans will always appreciate his service as a Blueshirt, even during his politically unpopular stint as the NHL Chief Disciplinarian.

#24 – Signing F Benoit Pouliot (July 5, 2013):

There wasn’t much chatter from Ranger fans when Sather inked the consistently inconsistent Pouliot to a 1-year, $1.3 million contract in the summer of 2013. The former 4th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft had bounced around Minnesota, Montreal, Boston and Tampa Bay in previous seasons, never quite securing a spot in the top lines as an offensive contributor. In fact, Pouliot was somewhat of a reclamation project, with a relatively small salary cap hit coupled with potential upside.

Of course, when inserted on a line with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, the trio materialized into the Rangers most consistent, puck-possessing, offensively contributing line of the 2013-14 season. Pouliot set a personal best for assists (21), points (36) and minutes played (1,075) in a single season. Pouliot also scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Philadelphia in the first round of the 2014 postseason, en route to the Stanley Cup Final loss against Los Angeles. Pouliot would leave New York after his contract expired for bigger money in Edmonton.

#23 – Signing F Derick Brassard to a 5-year, $25 million contract (July 27, 2014):

Scott Levy/ Getty Images

Scott Levy/ Getty Images

Less than a month after the amnesty buyout of Brad Richards in the summer of 2014, Sather had choices to make. He had center Derek Stepan under contract for one more season, and had to decide if Brassard could be reasonably expected to replace Richards’ minutes as one of the top-two Rangers pivots. At the time, the 27-year old Brassard had averaged just under 16 minutes per game as a Ranger, and even less of an average during his years in Columbus. In fact, Brassard had only played over 17 minutes per game one season in his career (2010-11, 17:02 per game).

So when Sather inked Brassard to the 5-year extension for a 2nd liner’s paygrade, it was met with legitimate skepticism mixed with reasonable optimism. Brassard had flourished in his first full season with the Rangers (centering the aforementioned Zuccarello-Brass-Pouliot line in 2013-14), but was now being invested upon to play bigger, tougher minutes. So how does it look now? Granted we are only one year into the deal, but his 2014-15 season was a career year by all accounts.

Replacing the departed Pouliot with Olympian Rick Nash, Brassard once again centered the Rangers’ most dynamic line, setting personal bests last season. His 19 goals, 41 assists, 60 points, +9 rating, and 17:24 icetime-per-game were all career-highs for Derick. And at 28 years young come September, it seems Brassard’s $5 million annual cap hit is a home run, especially considering the particularly steep price of reliable centers leaguewide. Brassard notched the game-winning-goal in Game 2 against Washington in the 2nd round of the 2015 playoffs.

#22 – Acquiring F Brian Boyle for a 3rd Round Pick (June 27, 2009):

There wasn’t much expectation of Boyle from Rangers fans when Sather pulled the trigger on this trade a little over 6 years ago. Boyle, a Boston College alumni, had only played 36 NHL games with Los Angeles at the time. Ultimately Boyle would establish himself as a reliable bottom-6 forward, whom would catch flack for flanking sluggishness with his size (and not hitting opponents enough), but was viewed favorably for his excellent penalty-killing ability, reliable faceoff game, and dependable elevation-of-gameplay in Rangers’ postseasons.

Boyle played an aggregate of 413 NHL games as a Ranger, totaling 53 goals, 56 assists and 109 points. He was the number-one penalty-killing forward in the 2011-12 run to the Eastern Conference as well as the 2013-14 run to the Stanley Cup Finals. As for the 3rd Rounder traded for Boyle? It would be used to select Jordan Weal, who has yet to play a single NHL game more than 5 years after he was drafted 70th overall in 2010.

#21 – Signing D Michal Rozsival (September 6, 2005):

One of the many European signings via free agency that Sather orchestrated leading up to the ‘Jagr era’ success of 2005-2008, Rozsival was inked roughly a month before the 2005-06 season. He was signed to a 1-year, $703,000 contract, which turned out to be a home run. He would lead the league in plus/minus (+35) in his first season on Broadway, and help lead the team to its first playoff series in a decade.

Rozsival would extend his contract for $2.1 million per year for 2 years the following season, anchoring a defense which would see the Rangers win their first playoff game and playoff series since 1997. Perhaps his most memorable moment was scoring the double-overtime game-winner against Buffalo in Game 3 of the 2007 2nd Round of playoffs. At the time it was the Rangers’ longest home playoff game since 1971.

Sather would sign Rozsival for a third time in 2008, but trade him to Phoenix in 2011 for F Wojtek Wolski. Overall, Rozsival played 463 games for New York, putting up 46 goals (22 of which being Power Play goals), 144 assists and 190 points. He finished +52 in his Rangers career, and nearly all of his best statistical seasons were when he donned the Broadway blue.

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Stay tuned for Part FOUR of this series, as we will gradually unveil Sather’s Top 50 BEST moves as Rangers’ General Manager. Follow me on Twitter @HockeyStatMiner!