Glen Sather’s Top Ten Rangers Trades – Part 1

Glen Sather joined the New York Rangers as president and General Manager in 2000. He ushered in an era of change, but it was one that certainly got off to a rocky start. His tenure started with the trades of Brian Leetch and Adam Graves and the acquisition of former enemies Bobby Holik and Eric Lindros, as well as the hiring of head coach Bryan Trottier, who only made it 54 games.

Sather would eventually find his footing via the draft, where he, along with the scouting staff, would begin restocking the Rangers’ cupboards with Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Chris Kreider. He’s augmented the homegrown core with key free agent acquisitions like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards – both players with a long-term future with the team, not quick-fix mercenaries like in the past. Some of Sather’s best moves, though, came via trade.

We’ll count down Glen Sather’s Top Ten Trades as General Manager of the New York Rangers.

#10 – Mr. Avery Goes To Manhattan

Jason Ward, Marc Andre Cliche, Jan Marek and a 3rd Round Pick to Los Angeles Kings for Sean Avery
February 5, 2007

The Rangers signed Jason Ward as an unrestricted free agent back in 2005. After two years as a third/fourth-liner, the team sent him west as part of a package to acquire one of the most infamous pests in recent NHL history.

Sean Avery was coming off a career-best season where he scored 15 goals and 24 assists for the Kings. While he put up points in Los Angeles, he appeared to be wearing out his welcome in the locker room. From calling out French-Canadians to getting fined for diving and then again for arguing the diving fine, Avery was getting his share of bad press. He also had an altercation with a broadcaster and was suspended from the team for refusing to take part in practice. The Kings finally parted ways with Avery, sending him to New York for Marc-Andre Cliche, Jason Ward, Jan Marek, and a conditional third-round draft pick.

Sean Avery
Avery (Icon SMI)

Avery provided an immediate spark to the Rangers’ lineup. He scored 20 points in 29 games, helping the Rangers end the season with a 17-6-6 run that got them into the playoffs. Avery embraced New York – probably as much for the bright lights of the city and its’ opportunities in the fashion industry as for the team that took to the ice. He played his role well as agitator on the ice, chipping in 23 goals and 30 assists in 86 games across his first two seasons with the Rangers. He helped the Rangers to consecutive playoff appearances, each time making the second round. With Avery in the lineup, the Rangers went 51-23-16, as compared to 8-10-3 when he didn’t play. Despite this, the team parted ways with the agitating forward after the 2008 season. Avery agreed to a four-year, $15.5 million deal with the Dallas Stars. He’d later go on to more controversy, including a league suspension and mandated counseling, before returning to the Rangers for a second stint in 2009.

Cliche is currently the captain of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. He was held scoreless in his only NHL game with the Kings. Ward played only seven games with the Kings. He signed with the Lightning in the offseason, where he played three more seasons in the NHL before retiring. Marek is currently playing in the KHL.

#9 – Betting on Betts

Chris Simon and a 7th Round Pick to Calgary for Betts, McLennan, and Greg Moore
March 6, 2004

Chris Simon was midway through his first season with the New York Rangers, and it was a disappointing one. The team was well on their way to missing the postseason – finishing closer to the bottom of the league than to a playoff berth. Sensing a need for a fresh start, both because of the team’s lack of success and the impending expiration of the CBA, Glen Sather began to clear out his roster. He sent Simon, whose 225 penalty minutes were second in the league, to Calgary for Blair Betts, Jamie McLennan, and Greg Moore.

Injury troubles kept Betts from having an impact in the Flames lineup. In 35 games spread over parts of three seasons, Betts posted three goals and five assist with Calgary. At the time of the trade, he was coming off shoulder surgery. He rehabbed and found playing time with the Hartford Wolf Pack during the lockout, finally making the Rangers’ roster in 2005-06. Betts quickly became a fixture on the team’s fourth line. A defensive specialist, he became the Rangers’ number one faceoff man and helped their penalty kill to a franchise-best 87.6%, according to the Post’s Larry Brooks.

After four seasons in New York, Betts was signed as a free agent by the rival Philadelphia Flyers. He certainly contributed more in those four years than Simon would have.

McLennan played four games with the Rangers following the trade. He left as a free agent in the offseason. Moore spent time with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, ultimately playing just a handful of games in the NHL.

Simon played two seasons with the Flames before joining the New York Islanders. It was there that, against the Rangers, he would have one of his career-defining moments. After a questionable check into the boards by Ryan Hollweg, Simon took a baseball-style swing at Hollweg’s face. Fortunately, Simon’s stick deflected off Hollweg’s arms, sparing him from serious injury.

Simon was suspended for 25 games, which carried into the following season. Less than two months after his return to the ice, Simon would again be suspended, this time for stomping on the leg of Pittsburgh Penguin Jarkko Ruutu. After his 30-game suspension, Simon was traded to Minnesota. He played 10 games with the Wild before his NHL career came to an end.

#8 – Captain for a Captain

Rights to Mark Messier to San Jose for 4th Round Pick (Ryan Callahan)
June 30, 2003

From The Hockey Writers “The 2013 New York Rangers: How The Team Was Built”:

In 2003, the CBA awarded a compensatory draft pick to teams who had an unrestricted free agent sign elsewhere. Planning to re-sign pending UFA Mark Messier, the Rangers traded him to the San Jose Sharks for a fourth round draft pick (#127). The next day, Messier became a free agent and re-signed with the Rangers. The Sharks received a fourth round pick (#91) from the league, and the Rangers ended up with the draft pick that would eventually become Ryan Callahan.

Sure, it was Glen Sather manipulating the system to his benefit, but it worked out.   The Sharks got their compensatory pick while the Rangers re-signed their captain and acquired the draft pick that would land them their most recent captain, Ryan Callahan.

#7 – Prust Part of Playoff Push

Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik to Calgary for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust
February 3, 2010

Ales Kotalik was signed as a free agent in the summer of 2009. He was coming off another strong season, his fourth of 20 on more goals in the past six years.In New York, though, he struggled, posting only eight goals in just over half a season with the team. Chris Higgins came aboard in the deal that sent Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens It was a brief and unsuccessful homecoming for the New York native, who could only muster six goals as a Blueshirt. Prior to the 2010 trade deadline, both were sent packing. The Rangers traded Higgins and Kotalik to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. Jokinen was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so his acquisition was purely a playoff rental.

The only problem? The Rangers missed the playoffs. By one point. Based on a shootout loss on the last day of the season. Who was their last shooter? The new guy, Jokinen, in his final game with the Rangers.

The other guy in the deal, Brandon Prust, decided to stick around. The Rangers signed him to a new contract in the offseason, and he began a memorable run on Broadway. Over two-and-a-half seasons, Prust accumulated 381 penalty minutes, dropping the gloves 63 times. When he wasn’t in the penalty box, he also found time to chip in offensively. Prust set career highs in 2010-11 with a 13-goal, 29-point season. He and Brian Boyle teamed up to form one of the best penalty-killing duos in the league, with Prust finding the net shorthanded five times that year. He quickly became a fan favorite and exemplified the hard-working style of play mandated by coach John Tortorella. Unfortunately, the Rangers weren’t able to hang on to the gritty winger. An unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012, he signed a four-year, $10 million deal with the Canadiens in the offseason.

Higgins didn’t stay long in Calgary. After 12 games, the team let him walk. He signed on with the Florida Panthers, who later flipped him to the Vancouver Canucks where he has been able to make a regular contribution. Kotalik, on the other hand, only played 52 more games in the NHL over two seasons, recording only seven more goals.

#6 – Bure Debuts on Broadway

Filip Novak, Igor Ulanov, 2002 1st round pick (Eric Nystrom), 2002 2nd round pick (Rob Globke), 2003 4th round pick  (Guillaume Desbiens) to Florida for Pavel Bure and 2002 2nd round pick (Lee Falardeau)
March 18, 2002

Five years removed from their last playoff appearance, the 2001-02 Rangers were once again on the outside looking in. Rangers GM Glen Sather, determined to get his team into the postseason made a big deal for another former all-star.  Pavel Bure was having an off-year with the Florida Panthers. After back-to-back seasons of over 50 goals, injuries limited him to just 22 goals in 56 games. With his $10 million salary weighing heavily on the team, they traded him – somewhat reluctantly – to the Rangers.

Bure (Hakan Dahlstrom/ Flikr.)
Bure (Hakan Dahlstrom/ Flikr.)

Bure slotted into the Rangers’ top line alongside Eric Lindros and Theo Fleury. He had an immediate impact. Bure scored 12 goals in his first 12 games in New York while also adding eight assists. He had a hand in 20 of the team’s 38 goals (52.6%) to end the year. Unfortunately, the Rangers could only manage a .500 record (6-6-0) to end the season, which wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs.

The injury bug struck early the following year, as Bure went down with a knee injury during the preseason. When he finally returned to the lineup, Bure picked up his scoring, netting 14 goals in his first 27 games. He suffered another knee injury in December that required surgery, limiting him to just 12 more games. He finished the year with 19 goals and 11 assists in 39 games. He would never again play in the NHL.

Bure’s stay in New York may have been brief and without great team success. Sather, though, made a good call in rolling the dice on this deal. The greatest disappointment is in what could have been if the Russian Rocket had been able to remain healthy.

Falardeau spent five years in the Rangers organization with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL.

The players sent the other way failed to find great success. The only player with any upside left is Eric Nystrom, who’s currently playing with the Dallas Stars. In 360 NHL games with the Flames, Wild, and Stars, Nystrom has 39 goals and 33 assists for 72 points. Defenseman Filip Novak found his way into 17 NHL games for the Senators and Blue Jackets, where he was held scoreless. He’s currently playing with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL. Ulanov played three more unremarkable seasons in the NHL, one with the Panthers and two with the Oilers. He amassed a total of 33 more points before his retirement. Rob Globke marked a goal and assist in 46 career games with the Panthers before leaving the NHL to play in Europe. Guillaume Desbiens has been held scoreless in 23 NHL games with the Canucks and Flames; he’s currently under contract with Vancouver.

Part 2 is available here, where we countdown from Number 5 to the Number 1 trade Glen Sather made as Rangers’ GM.

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