UPDATE: The sense in Ottawa is that Dany Heatley will be moved tonight. That's not a guarantee the Rangers will get him. But they're still very, very interested. And talking.
ORIGINAL POST: Glen Sather and Chris Higgins were just on a conference call formally announcing the deal that brings Higgins, a Long Island native (he grew up a Canadiens fan, oddly enough) and sends Scott Gomez to Montreal.
Several times during the season, particularly around the trade deadline, Gomez downplayed the inclusion of his name in trade rumors, saying he never paid attention because he's heard his name in trade rumors since he first broke into the NHL with the Devils. He must have bought it this time around, though. The whispers are he had his agent calling Sather on a weekly basis, if not more, asking what was up. Gomez, like everybody else around the NHL, knew the Rangers were looking to move his salary.
Reaction below. And stay tuned. Sather said another trade tonight is definitely a possibility.
Sather said trade talks with the Canadiens began in earnest at the Canadiens Society dinner on June 22 as he sat next to Montreal GM Bob Gainey on the podium. Sather also said he got good value in the two defense prospects he also acquired, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko. Montreal defenseman Doug Janik was also part of the deal as the Rangers acquired his neogitating rights but he will not be part of the team next season.
Sather, who tried to infer this was not a straight salary dump, said of Gomez's two seasons with the Rangers, "I think Scott is a very good player, a real good guy. I've got no complaints about him. It gives us a lot more options and the availability to do other things. We're not up against the cap now. We have a lot of cap room. It makes the options more inviting. We still have depth with the kids in the minors. We've wanted to make room for the young guys.
"Higgins has been a goal scorer, he has the ability to score some goals. I think he's a terrific player. He's excited to be coming home."
Asked whether Gomez's departure means other bad contracts such as Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival can consider themselves safe, Sather began laughing.
"I don't know how to answer that question," Sather said. "You can't stay pat with a hockey team. To say anybody is safe, I don't think that's necessary. There's a chance nobody will be traded.
"Since this deal happened, I've had three other calls," Sather added. "It doesn't take long for people to realize you're going to make changes."
Sather is also not buying into the theory that the annual free agent frenzy will be more subdued tomorrow because of the bad economy and the impact it's expected to have on the 2010-11 salary cap.
"I'd like to think that will happen but every time I predict that's going to happen, I find out I'm wrong," Sather said. "To go after free agents, you have to pay market value. Nobody really knows until we get started."
Sather added that Higgins, a restricted free agent, has received his qualifying offer and he did not foresee any issues in signing Higgins, who earned $1.9 million last season, to a new deal.
"He certainly wasn't talking to me about not playing in New York," Sather said. "He's as excited as anybody I've ever seen in coming to New York."
Higgins, of Smithtown, said the pressure he'll face in playing in Madison Square Garden will be similar to playing in the rabid hockey city of Montreal.
But Higgins said he was surprised by the trade.
"Yeah, definitely very surprised," Higgins said. "I heard my name thrown around but you never think it's actually going to happen. Usually it's somebody in Montreal making something up. I'm absolutely thrilled. If there's one place I'd want to play other than Montreal it's with the New York Rangers. It's a dream come true for me."
That said, Higgins laughed about his "Ranger memories" while growing up. He was a Montreal fan, which meant in 1994, when he was 11 and the Rangers were winning the Stanley Cup, he had to endure plenty of razzing from his friends. Higgins, though, said he closely followed Brian Leetch's career.
Asked to describe himself as a player, Higgins replied, "I like to play a relentless style. I like to be moving the whole time in my shift. I pride myself on my work ethic. I've always liked the way (John Tortorella's) teams have played. They don't seem to put their foot off the gas pedal. When you get traded, you want to make a strong first impression. That's what I plan on doing."
Higgins attributed his down year - 12 goals, 11 assists in 57 games - a training camp groin injury that sidelined him for six games and a mid-season shoulder injury that left him on the bench for another 19. Higgins said he'll be 100 percent for the start of the Rangers' training camp.