Russo's NHL Insider: Gaborik's journey takes him to Stanley Cup Final

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2014 - 6:54 AM

The ex-Wild star took a bumpy route but is thriving in L.A.

Who would have thought, five years ago, that one of the stars standing in the way of Doug Risebrough, one of Glen Sather’s right-hand men with the New York Rangers, collecting another Stanley Cup ring would be … the Los Angeles Kings’ Marian Gaborik?

During the summer of 2008, Risebrough, the Wild’s first general manager, flew to Trencin, Slovakia, with then-assistant GM Tom Lynn to sit down with Gaborik. Because Gaborik was a year from free agency, the Wild wanted to handsomely extend his contract so he could finish his career in Minnesota.

That September, Lynn, now an agent, says the Wild offered Gaborik a 10-year deal worth $79.5 million. Lynn says agent Ron Salcer wanted $99.5 million. The Wild demanded a counteroffer and negotiations broke down.

Gaborik promptly got hurt playing soccer hacky sack in Florida. He underwent hip surgery that December (under his own volition, an angry Risebrough made clear). Having played only six games before the 2009 trade deadline, Gaborik was untradable and the Wild ultimately lost him for nothing once Risebrough was fired and new GM Chuck Fletcher opted not to put that $79.5 million offer back on the table.

Gaborik signed a five-year, $37.5 million with the Rangers on July 1, 2009, the team for which Risebrough would become a consultant. Now Risebrough, who has won Stanley Cups as a player with Montreal and as an assistant coach in Calgary, is a constant ear for Sather. He loves the role because it enables him to scout and help from afar while having the freedom to live his life.

Starting tonight, Gaborik will be going head-to-head with his former Rangers teammates in an attempt to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time.

L.A. redemption

Last season, presumably to get away from former Rangers coach John Tortorella, Gaborik waived his no-trade clause to go to Columbus. He scored nine goals in a brief, 40-game, injury-riddled career with the Blue Jackets before being dealt to the Kings for peanuts this past March.

Three playoff rounds later, Gaborik has proved his worth and then some. The Wild’s franchise leader with 219 goals has scored a league-leading 12, including the tying goal late in the third period of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, to help give the Kings a chance to win their second Stanley Cup in three years.

That’s right, in 21 playoff games, Gaborik has scored three more goals than he did in his Blue Jackets career. His 12 goals are in fact 12 more than he scored in the 2008 opening-round loss to Colorado for the Northwest Division champion Wild.

It’s been a tough couple of years for Gaborik, who lost his best friend, Pavol Demitra, in a plane crash; close friend Derek Boogaard to a drug overdose; and some family members. But it’s been visible for all to see just how much fun he’s having now, and it’s all but guaranteed that he’ll be forgoing free agency July 1 in order to re-sign in Los Angeles.

The swift right winger with a deadly wrist shot and nose for the net is showing why Risebrough and Lynn wanted to give him the big bucks. All postseason, he has been a clutch game-breaker on a line mostly with Anze Kopitar, the front-runner to be named Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP if the Kings win it.

Two for the show

Gaborik is finishing checks and hustling on backchecks and is one of the great trade-deadline pickups in recent memory. Neck-and-neck is Martin St. Louis, who had a rocky start to his Rangers career after demanding out of Tampa Bay but has been superb all postseason for the Rangers.

He has 13 points, tied for the team lead with Minnesotans Derek Stepan (playing with a broken jaw) and Ryan McDonagh. Rangers teammates have rallied around the recent loss of St. Louis’ mother. Down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the time, the Rangers have won seven games since, with St. Louis missing no games and chillingly scoring on Mother’s Day.

The Kings, 9-1 in their past 10 playoff series, won three road Game 7s to get to the Stanley Cup Final. This is a team that was down 3-0 in the first round to the San Jose Sharks.

As Kings defenseman Alec Martinez told NBC Sports Network after he scored the overtime clincher against Chicago in the Western Conference finals against Chicago, “We’re kind of like a bunch of cockroaches. You can’t get rid of us.”

The Stanley Cup Final has it all. It has thoroughbred defensemen Drew Doughty of the Kings vs. McDonagh. In goal, it has 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick of the Kings vs. the King — “King Henrik” Lundqvist.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 3rd Qtr 1:33
(3) Oregon 48
(25) Washington 17 4th Qtr 14:51
Hawaii 13
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close