And, really, who wouldn't be after getting a five-year deal worth $37.5 million which includes a limited movement clause after a season that consisted of 17 games because of groin, back and a hip surgery. Marian Gaborik, speaking on a conference call from Slovakia that introduced him as the newest Ranger, said he feels 100 percent healthy and believes he was able to prove that with his performance (13 goals, 10 assists) after returning for the end of last season with the Wild.
If Gaborik remains healthy - which still must be considered a big if given his track record, particularly over the past three seasons (48 games in 2006-07) - this should be a great move for the Rangers, who will marry Gaborik's elite goal-scoring ability with John Tortorella's aggressive, push-the-puck-up-the-ice brand of hockey.
There's little doubt the Rangers have finished retooling their roster but Gaborik needs a top-line center to play with. In the media room today, I was making a case for the Rangers pursuing Saku Koivu but the ex-Canadiens captain seems destined for parts West - Los Angeles, Anaheim, Minnesota?
Gaborik said the Rangers pursued him heavily the moment the free agent market opened. He added the Wild made no attempts once noon struck yesterday to retain him. Gaborik said he spoke to several players and ex-players about playing in New York, including current Rangers Chris Drury and Aaron Voros (his former teammate in Minnesota) and ex-Ranger and fellow Czech Martin Rucinsky.
Gaborik also laughed when I asked him whether he's spoken to goalie Henrik Lundqvist and whether Lundqvist is thrilled not to have to face Gaborik anymore. Gaborik scored a goal at the Garden last season and torched Lundqvist for five goals at St. Paul, Minn. in a 6-3 win on Dec. 20, 2007.
Gaborik on his health: "I feel great. I played the last 11 games of the year. I took time off after and tried to get to 100 percent. Now, I'm in full training, getting ready for the season. I'm very excited. I don't see any problems down the road. I'm just getting ready for the season."
Gaborik on the Rangers' pursuit of him: "Right away when I hit free agency, it was six o'clock my time, I got a presentation video sent by their scout. I watched it. It was unbelievable. It was really very important, they came after me this way. There were a few other teams interested. But with the Rangers, it was every aspect, whether it was the terms or pretty much everything, when somebody is very interested in you, it feels great."
Gaborik on playing for Tortorella: "We've had a couple of conversations. Obviously, he won a Stanley Cup in Tampa. I think he did very well for the Rangers. Coming to the Rangers, they weren't doing that great and they made the playoffs. I'm looking forward to this and I'm sure we'll have a great time."
Gaborik on whether signing with the Rangers is a turning point in his career: "Well, of course, my whole experience in the NHL is playing for one team. I had a great time there, obviously this is a bigt change, a big opportunity. It's kind of starting to hit me now I'm becoming a Ranger. It's very exciting. I'm looking forward to this. The page turned yesterday and I'm starting a new hockey life pretty much."
Gaborik on being injury-plagued: "Definitely, it's been very tough. I guess it just makes me stronger. The toughest part is seeing your teammates out there, battling hard, winning games and you can't help. It's tough times. I'm glad I chose to have surgery last year, it worked out perfectly. Hopefully, everything is behind me and I can focus on playing hockey."