This season wasn't much fun in New York for slumping forward Marian Gaborik. He wasn't scoring goals the way he was used to, and he and his Rangers teammates found themselves in an unexpected fight just to get into the playoffs.
So in a swift move Wednesday, just before the NHL trade deadline, Gaborik was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the biggest deal of the day.
Gaborik was traded for center Derick Brassard, injured right wing Derek Dorsett, defenseman John Moore and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft. Two minor league players were sent to Columbus by the Rangers.
This marked the second swap of star players between the teams within the past year. The first sent Rick Nash to the Rangers last summer. Gaborik briefly spoke to Nash about Columbus before hopping a flight to meet up with his new club in Nashville.
"I didn't have fun this year," Gaborik said during a conference call. "I don't think the whole team has at all, too, so I'm looking forward to the challenge."
One season after having the best record in the East, the Rangers have struggled.
"I had a lot of fun in New York but the way this kind of played out, actually one team wanted me and indicated they are going in the right direction and wanted to trade for me," he said. "When I was in New York we didn't really perform the way we should, myself included.
"It wasn't the way anybody expected."
Gaborik waived a no-movement clause in order to allow the deal to be completed.
"They're a team that really wants me. I made my decision after that," Gaborik said.
It was the second big trade for the playoff-hopeful Rangers in two days. On Tuesday night, New York acquired forward Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks for a package of three draft picks.
All the healthy players were in New York's lineup Wednesday night for a home game against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I believe the deal worked for both teams because I think he is going to play really well," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We get a number of assets and some depth onto our team moving forward."
New York and Columbus have become big-time trading partners in recent times.
The Rangers received top-line forward Rick Nash from the Blue Jackets in a trade last July that sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in this year's draft to Columbus.
Nash, the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft by the Blue Jackets in 2002, has 13 goals and 30 points in his first 31 games with New York. Nash is expected to play on a line with Brassard as they did with Columbus.
Columbus also acquired defensemen Steven Delisle and Blake Parlett from the Rangers on Wednesday. Delisle had been traded to New York as part of the Nash deal.
The Rangers entered play Wednesday in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind area rivals New Jersey and the New York Islanders, who currently hold the final two playoff positions. The Rangers have 13 games remaining.
"I am hoping it's going to help us with some new juice," Tortorella said. "We need to find a way to win, and we're hoping they're going to help us. The deal helps us in depth, period — forwards and defense."
Columbus also has its sights on the playoffs in the Western Conference, sitting in 11th place but only one point below the postseason cutoff. The Blue Jackets have qualified for the playoffs only once in their first 11 NHL seasons — losing in the first round in 2009.
They were so anxious to bring Gaborik to the team, the Blue Jackets sent a private plane to pick him up Wednesday and fly him to Nashville, where the Blue Jackets are scheduled to play the Predators on Thursday night. Columbus center Mark Letestu has already agreed to give Gaborik his familiar No. 10, and will take No. 55 instead.
"Throughout this process our focus was to add a player who could provide a boost to our offense, improve our goal scoring and power play, and we identified Marian Gaborik as the player we wanted," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. "He has been an elite goal scorer in this league for many years and we are very excited to have him."
Gaborik has been disappointing this season, his fourth with the Rangers, as he has only nine goals and 19 points in 35 games while shuttling between various lines. He didn't score in his final five games with New York and notched only two goals and five assists in the past 22.
"I am going to miss him," Tortorella said. "He is a good player, and his game is beginning to come, but it gives us some flexibility moving forward. We're filling out the middle of our lineup with the deal. We get some good players there with some grind, with some skill.
"A lot of players that have struggled this year, you've got to be really careful how to judge them because I think it's been one screwed-up year. That's why I think he is going to come alive."
Gaborik had two 40-goal campaigns in three-plus seasons after signing with the Rangers as a free agent in July 2009. He netted 42 goals in 2009-10 and 41 last season when he played in all 82 games. He was limited to 22 goals and 62 games in the 2010-11 season because of injury.
Gaborik had six goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games with New York over two years, including last season when the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference finals. Gaborik was hampered by a shoulder injury during the playoffs that required surgery during the offseason.
Including eight seasons with the Minnesota Wild, the 31-year-old Gaborik has 333 goals and 333 assists in 757 NHL games.
The deal will give the Rangers much-needed salary relief. Gaborik carries a $7.5 million cap hit this season and next, the final year of his contract. The added flexibility could help New York re-sign the newly acquired Clowe, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Brassard has seven goals and 18 points in 34 games this season, and Dorsett posted three goals and six assists in 24 games before he broke his collarbone on March 7 in a game against Vancouver.
Dorsett, who is on the injured list, could miss the rest of the season. In 280 NHL games, all with Columbus, Dorsett has 27 goals and 38 assists. He led the league with 235 penalty minutes last season, but also set career highs with 12 goals, 20 points, 137 shots, while playing in 77 games.
The 22-year-old Delisle was the Blue Jackets' third pick, 107th overall, in the 2008 draft. He played in four games this season with Connecticut of the AHL and 61 with Greenville of the ECHL.
Parlett, 23, was signed as a free agent by the Rangers in June 2011. He had six goals and 22 assists in 67 games with Connecticut this season and 12 goals and 42 assists in 146 career AHL games.
To make room on the roster, the Rangers assigned forwards Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast to Connecticut. Fast had been on loan by the Rangers to HV71 of the Swedish Elite League. The 21-year-old Kreider has two goals and one assist in 17 games with New York this season. In 34 games with Connecticut, Kreider had five goals and seven assists.