The April 3 trade deadline is now less than a week away, and the New York Rangers are going to have to figure out what they want to do with Marian Gaborik.
It's no secret that 2013 has been a disaster for Gaborik, who has just nine goals and 19 points in 33 games this season and only four goals in his last 28 games.
After a 41-goal and 76-point performance in 2011-12, Gaborik was expected carry his impressive play over into 2013, where he was to share the scoring load with summer-acquisition Rick Nash.
But with 15 games remaining, the Rangers have the lowest goals-for total in the Eastern Conference, and a major reason for that is because Gaborik has not held up his part of the bargain.
It's true that the Rangers may not find many options in what appears to be a seller's trade-market, so their best option is to move Gaborik. He does have a limited no-trade clause, which allows him select 10 teams he does not want to be traded to, but that still gives the Rangers a lot of wiggle room.
Here's why I think they should aggressively test the market for Gaborik before next Wednesday.
Gaborik’s statistical struggles have been well documented. As I wrote in the introduction, his 2013 production is nowhere near the pace he was able to maintain for all of 2011-12.
The Rangers have struggled to find goals consistently since Jaromir Jagr left for Russia in the summer of 2008, and that’s not only because Jagr is a prolific goal-scorer, but because John Tortorella runs a defensive system and it’s imperative that players convert on their scoring chances.
But when a guy who’s expected to score at a 30-goal pace fails to do so, the team is going to feel it—and they have.
What’s even more frustrating about Gaborik is that he hasn’t created much offense either. Players deal with goal-scoring droughts—everyone knows that—but a player with as much talent as Gaborik should be able to facilitate offense even if he isn’t the one scoring the goals.
But he hasn’t been able to do that either.
He’s been nothing but dead weight for much of the season, so what’s the point of keeping him around? This league is about “what have you done for me lately,” and in Gaborik’s case it’s not a whole lot.
There’s a clear lack of effort or motivation, and his poor chemistry with nearly every other forward on the team has, I’m sure, frustrated his coach.
It’s time for the Rangers to ship out the underperformers and cash in.
The Rangers’ future cap dilemma is something I’ve written about extensively on this site for over a month now, so I won’t carry on about it too much.
That being said, there is a lot to be concerned about. This summer, not only will the salary cap drop nearly $6 million, but several key young players will hit restricted free-agency. Among them are Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin.
All three players have proven they’re effective pros and could command hefty price tags.
If they move Gaborik before the deadline they’ll have plenty of cap space to lock the trio up for several years.
If you ask me, the youth of this team needs to be the priority. If it means they have to move Gaborik to preserve the youth, then so be it. It even allows them to bring in some additional assets.
If they choose to not move Gaborik—and they run into trouble resigning their youngsters—they may be forced to use one of their compliance buyouts on either Gaborik or Brad Richards, which would eliminate either player’s salary, but also fetch no return.
The Rangers are a team without a first round pick this year, and their farm system is depleted; they can’t afford not to cash in on a valuable piece.
Even further down the line is the summer of 2014, in which even more key players hit restricted and unrestricted free-agency; players like Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist and even Gaborik.
The way things are going, I wouldn't bet on Gaborik being re-signed, because much of the available cap will be devoted to resigning the youth, not resigning overpaid, underperforming forwards.
Although he’s struggled this year, the Rangers can still fetch a big return for Gaborik.
This has mostly to do with the fact that there are simply not many players of Gaborik’s quality out there for the taking. And with so many teams still in the midst of playoff races, it wouldn't take long for the Rangers to find a buyer.
Waiting to move him over the summer or sometime next season could end up coming back to bite the Rangers. Gaborik’s tumultuous start isn't a secret around the league, but at the same time, people know what he’s capable of.
If he remains with the team, though, and his nightmare performances continue, general managers could lose interest fast, and his value could drop significantly. The Rangers would then miss out on valuable assets.
Many teams in the Eastern Conference will look to the trade deadline to maybe gain some ground on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who've added Brendan Morrow, Doug Murray and Jarome Iginla over the past few days. Teams like the Boston Bruins will be in the market for top-end talent, and a struggling world-class forward like Gaborik could really benefit from a change of scenery.
If there are teams interested, and the Rangers are serious about moving Gaborik, now is the time. Moving an asset as big as Gaborik needs to come with a sizable payout.