New York Rangers: Markus Naslund Good, Not Great

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 07:  Markus Naslund #91 of the New York Rangers skates against the Montreal Canadiens on January 7, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Canadiens defeated the Rangers 6-3  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

New York Rangers forward Markus Naslund made it official today, announcing his retirement from the NHL at the age of 35 after a solid career. 

Naslund's decision could have a major impact on the New York Rangers off-season plans.  The Blueshirts, who were eliminated from the playoffs by Washington, have many holes and little cap space to fill them. 

Retiring the entirety of Naslund's $4 million cap number for next season will make the money available for the Rangers to use to pursue free agents.

For Markus Naslund, the decision puts an end to an NHL career that spanned 15 seasons with three teams: Pittsburgh, Vancouver, and New York.  He retires with 395 goals and 474 assists for 869 points.

Markus Naslund began his hockey career in his native Sweden playing alongside Peter Forsberg.  When Naslund was drafted 16th overall in the 1991 Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he decided to forgo the NHL and remain in Sweden for an additional two years.

Making his NHL debut in 1993, Naslund struggled to fulfill the promise of a player selected 16th overall.  In 185 games for the Penguins, spread out over three seasons, Naslund disappointed with 25 goals and 42 assists.

The majority of these points came in 1995-96, the season in which Naslund was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. 

The first two seasons in Vancouver did not see substantial improvement.  Many within the Canucks organization, including head coach Mike Keenan, began questioning whether Naslund would ever reach his potential. 

His first breakout offensive season came in 1998-99 as he lit the lamp 36 times and amassed 66 points leading the Canucks into the playoffs.

This would usher in the most productive stretch of his career and contribute to his naming as the Captain of the Canucks in 2000, an honor he would hold for the remainder of his time in Vancouver.

Naslund's most productive season came in 2002-03 when he was paired with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrision.  The line, dubbed the West Coast Express, was dominant and contributed to Naslund setting career highs in goals (48), assists (56) and points (104). 

For this tremendous season Naslund was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL's most outstanding player and finished runner-up to countryman Peter Forsberg for the Hart Memorial Trophy. 

The following year Naslund continued to produce but his season, along with that of the entire Canucks organization, will be remembered for one of the most vicious on-ice incidents in NHL history. 

On February 14, 2004 Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore delivered a questionable open ice hit to Naslund.  The hit caused a minor concussion and cost Naslund three games.  

In their next meeting Naslund's linemate Todd Bertuzzi retaliated for the hit, suckerpunching Moore and falling forward onto him.  The incident fractured three vertebrae in Moore's neck and ended his NHL career.

During the NHL's lockout Naslund returned to Sweden, reuniting with Peter Forsberg and Canuck teammates Henrik and Daniel Sedin, before reupping with the Canucks.  In the next three seasons Naslund would set a number of Canucks records.

Last Summer Naslund decided to leave Vancouver after growing frustrated with the team and the coaching staff's inability to pair him with consistent linemates. 

Signing a two year contract with the Rangers, Naslund left Vancouver as the franchises leading goal and points scorer.

In his one season in New York, Naslund led the Rangers in goals with 24 and contributed 46 points.  He also served as one of two Rangers alternate captains to Chris Drury along with Scott Gomez . 

Naslund was always known as one of the nicest guys in the league and gave a great deal to charitable organizations. 

While in Vancouver, Naslund founded a program called Nazzy's Suite 19 which brought underprivileged children to Canucks home games and frequently volunteered time at children's hospitals.

Markus Naslund will one day see his No. 19 raised to the rafters at GM Place in Vancouver. This is an honor he has earned and deserves.  It will be the perfect cap to an NHL career that was good, very good in fact.  It just wasn't great. 

Thank you, Markus, for all the effort over the years and the memories.


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