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

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close