Hero to Zero

The last original member of the Minnesota Wild will be switching jerseys next year. Doug Risebrough and his front office staff made a good run at trying to re-sign franchise star Marian Gaborik, and reportedly offered an 8-year, $64m contract but only to be spurned. Gaborik’s departure was clear, but with the Wild expected to make the playoffs it created an interesting situation. It didn’t make any sense to keep Gaborik past the trade deadline, but it also didn’t make sense to trade away the franchise’s most potent offensive weapon before the playoff run.

Gaborik broke out last year with a 42-goal, 77-games played effort, temporarily dispelling any tags of being injury-prone. But, as some expected, the injury bug bit the Slovak winger again and has only appeared in 6 games thus far. This does not bode well for a UFA-to-be winger who is going to ask for top dollar and a long-term contract. In 8 seasons in the NHL not once has the winger played a full 82-game season, and only 4 times in which he has played more than 70 games.

Sometime next week, Gaborik is expected to undergo hip surgery and will be out for at least 10 weeks, and even for Gaborik and the Wild that is wildly optimistic due to his past history. He came back briefly and unsurprisingly showed brilliance offensively, but was asked by management to take two games off to rest his groin. It made sense for the Wild – they’re playing well enough without its star and giving him extra rest means a less likelihood of him re-injuring or aggravating his groin. However, as local Minnesota reporter Michael Russo reports, it seemed fishy from the beginning.

Barring a miracle comeback, the Wild will not be able to trade Gaborik and even if they did they won’t be getting a package good enough for them to pull the trigger. There’s just simply too many question marks surrounding Gaborik. He’s only 26 and many experts believe that Gaborik’s just scratching the surface of what he can do and he’s worth every penny – if he plays. Earning just a shade over $6m this year, Gaborik will be looking for a pay raise, but unless Gaborik agrees to a contract with an injury clause much like Eric Lindros‘ (in which his pay was wholly dependent on how many games he plays), a lot of teams would be strongly cautioned to throw that much money at him. The stat that many GMs will use as a case to sign him though? The Wild are 42 games above .500 when he plays and 9 games under .500 when he doesn’t.