In the first move in what looks like to be a busy offseason, the Rangers traded center Scott Gomez, forward Tom Pyatt, and defenseman Mike Busto to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Chris Higgins and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.
In moving Gomez, the Rangers clear major space on the salary cap since he is due to make $7.4 million next year, while Higgins only made$1.9 million and is a restricted free agent. Yet, general manager Glen Sather managed to get the talented Smithtown native back in the trade.
Higgins, 26, has skated in 282 regular season contests with Montreal, recording 84 goals and 67 assists for 151 points, along with 96 penalty minutes. The 6-0, 205-pounder has eclipsed the 20-goal mark three times. In 2007-08, he established career-highs in games played (82), goals (27), assists (25), points (52), power play goals (12), game-winning goals (five), and shots (241). He led Montreal in shots, tied for second on the team in power play goals and game-winning goals, and ranked third in goals. He was also one of only three Canadiens to skate in all 82 games during the season. Higgins registered 11 points (six goals and five assists) in the first 13 games of the season, and went on to surpass the 20-goal plateau for the third straight year.
And the Rangers shed Gomez, whose contract was becoming an albatross. After signing back in 2007, the former New Jersey Devil was supposed to the answer for Jaromir Jagr, but never could jell with the Hall of Fame right wing. He bounced around looking for the right combination, but it never seemed to work like it did back in New Jersey.
He now becomes the latest ex-New Jersey Devil to become a Rangers’ failure.
The move also signals a busy day tomorrow for Sather as free agency opens. Now with cap space, Sather will look for a sniper, while also remolding the team in Tortorella’s image.