What Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton Might Have in Common

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David Rogers

Editor-in-Chief at Cleared for Contact
Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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On June 30th, 2009, New York Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather pulled the trigger on a deal which would help to reshape the franchise for what will likely be the following decade. On that day, he reached out to his Montreal Canadiens’ counterpart, Bob Gainey, to finalize a deal the two had been discussing for over a week.

From NHL.com 

Glen Sather and Bob Gainey started discussing their wants and needs when they sat together at a dinner on June 22. The respective general managers for the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens continued the discussion at the Entry Draft.

Finally, at roughly 3 p.m. ET Tuesday, they consummated a trade that seemingly helps both sides.

The Canadiens would receive 29-year-old center Scott Gomez, coming off a 58-point season who was locked up for another five years at a $7.36M AAV, along with young grinder Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto. The return for the Rangers was restricted free agent Chris Higgins, journeyman Doug Janik and a couple of prospect defensemen, however this was primarily a salary dump by the Rangers looking to land a top tier scoring forward either via trade or in the Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) market, which would open the following day.

OK, we all know now that Rangers’ Captain Ryan McDonagh was one of those defensemen prospects and ultimately ended up being the key part of that deal, while the Rangers would go on to sign UFA Marian Gaborik the day after the trade. Gainey got fleeced here, as Gomez would eventually be bought out by Montreal after one good season and a couple of terrible ones. This deal is largely considered to be the most lopsided one in the post salary cap NHL and a contender in the entire history of the NHL.

The Rangers and GM Jeff Gorton are hoping to have written a second act to this story, though. Just a few weeks ago, he completed a similar deal, this time with the Arizona Coyotes in another salary dump of a mid 50’s point center with a number of years left on a high dollar deal, with the return including a young former first-round drafted defenseman. In free agency, the Rangers acquired top offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (4 years, $6.65M AAV) using the salary cap space they cleared by trading Derek Stepan (4 years, $6.5M AAV remaining). Along with Stepan, the Rangers sent backup goaltender Antti Raanta west in exchange for the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (Lias Andersson) along with a young offensive defenseman named Anthony DeAngelo.

The parallels here are remarkable:

Scott Gomez
Center
Age: 29
$7.36M AAV with 5 years remaining
Final NYR Season: 77gp, 16g, 42a, 58p

Derek Stepan
Center
Age: 27
$6.5M AAV with 4 years remaining
Final NYR Season: 81gp, 17g, 38a, 55p

Ryan McDonagh
Defenseman
Age at trade: 20
12th Overall Selection in 2007

Anthony DeAngelo
Defenseman
Age at trade: 21
19th Overall Selection in 2014

GM Glen Sather clears cap space to sign UFA Marian Gaborik
GM Jeff Gorton clears cap space to sign UFA Kevin Shattenkrik

Before you overreact, I’m not saying that DeAngelo will be the second coming of McDonagh. I know—we all know—they are different types of defensemen for starters and it’s not fair to put that kind of expectation on a young player, regardless of his upside. Most middle ten first-round draft picks do not pan out. Of those who do, very few become the caliber of player that McDonagh is. But the surrounding similarities make this deal more interesting as you peel back the layers. If DeAngelo does become one of the steals of the 2014 draft class and if Stepan struggles to find the same production consistency in Arizona that he had in New York, the parallels may grow even deeper.

Make no mistake, history tells us that this will likely end up being a salary dump for the Rangers where the return on the trade amounted to very little, but where the primary goal was to free up enough space to acquire a desired target in free agency. DeAngelo might only play a season or two with the Rangers, having mild success and/or Stepan may go to Arizona and provide the veteran leadership their young team needs to turn the corner en route to becoming a consistent playoff team. If history repeats itself though, we may be talking about the two greatest thefts of the Salary Cap Era, one committed by a wily veteran general manager and the other by his understudy, who has been coming into his own.

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Discussion
  1. Phil in Absentia
    When has that not been the case, though? The NHL just seems to have given a "name" to it recently — Hockey Operations. But even going back ten, fifteen, twenty years it was still the same. There was always a group with a GM making the final call.
    As to the OP, I agree the optics are eerily similar, but if we're judging the two head-to-head, at least right now, I think the Gomez for McDonagh and Gáborík deal will ultimately have proudced more tangible results.

    But also, safe to say that Andersson will have a much better career with the Rangers than the 55 games we got from Higgins...
    Phil in Absentia
    When has that not been the case, though? The NHL just seems to have given a "name" to it recently — Hockey Operations. But even going back ten, fifteen, twenty years it was still the same. There was always a group with a GM making the final call.
    As to the OP, I agree the optics are eerily similar, but if we're judging the two head-to-head, at least right now, I think the Gomez for McDonagh and Gáborík deal will ultimately have proudced more tangible results.

    Sure. It will still be a couple years before we know what DeAngelo might become, how Shattenkirk does and what becomes of Stepan in Arizona.
    When has that not been the case, though? The NHL just seems to have given a "name" to it recently — Hockey Operations. But even going back ten, fifteen, twenty years it was still the same. There was always a group with a GM making the final call.
    As to the OP, I agree the optics are eerily similar, but if we're judging the two head-to-head, at least right now, I think the Gomez for McDonagh and Gáborík deal will ultimately have proudced more tangible results.
    Yeah, they're largely following the same formula in the front office as they have for years. That's what happens when the head of state changes, but the regime stays the same. Sather is still involved in the decision making process. He's not just up there smoking cigars. To me, it points to the idea that hockey teams, the Rangers included, are run by committee now. That's not to say Gorton isn't "the decider" but I'm wary to completely criticize Sather for making poor decisions and praise Gorton for making good ones. They both have/had a hand in the decisions made during their respective times as GM.
    What's the old saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same"?