To me, this is inevitable.
It wouldn't be something Minnesota sports fans weren't used to. From our all-time greats, like Rod Carew and Fran Tarkenton, to our future hall-of-famers like Johan Santana and Kevin Garnett, to past greats still waiting for the hall to call, like Bert Blyleven and Cris Carter, it is not unusual for us Minnesotans to see our former stars on the opposing sideline, bench, or dugout.
Marian Gaborik looks to be added to this list.
Gaby and the Minnesota Wild both came into the league in 2000, and the Wild selected Gaborik with their first ever draft choice. He's been the face of the franchise ever since.
Over the summer of 2008, when Gaby and Wild GM Doug Risebrough couldn't agree on a new contract, I knew this would be the last season to see No. 10 on the ice. Some sporting apparel shops seemed to agree with me, and had Gaborik sweaters on the clearance racks along with the leftover Culpepper and Moss jerseys.
But Gaby's season was cut short due to hip surgery in January. At the time Risebrough said he hoped that Gaby would be able to return for the team's final 13 games to make a playoff push.
Despite Gaby's absence, the Wild remained in the playoff hunt. C Mikko Koivu emerged as the team leader, Owen Nolan led the team in scoring, and Niklas Backstrom went to his first All-Star Game...all roles that were previously held by Gaborik.
Gaborik did return before the season ended, appearing in a March 22 game against Edmonton, with 10 games remaining on the schedule.
With Gaborik back in the lineup, the Wild would go 7-3-1, but it wouldn't be enough. The Wild were eliminated from contention on the last day of the regular season, finishing ninth in the West and two points back of No. 8 seed Anaheim.
Minnesota would get hot, scoring 17 goals in their last three games.
Now, we sit and wait. Doug Risebrough says he is trying to re-sign Gaby as quick as possible, but Gaby says he doesn't want to talk about contracts until July 31, which is when Free Agency begins.
Gaborik says he is looking forward to hearing from all 30 NHL teams, which means he will probably not be lacing up in red and green next season.