Work in Sports
Devils' defenseman Malakhov bolts to Rangers
Posted: Monday July 10, 2000 05:13 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers signed defenseman Vladimir Malakhov away from the Stanley Cup-champion New Jersey Devils Monday as an appetizer to what is expected to be a key week for the club.
Malakhov, who was acquired by the Devils from Montreal on March 1, signed a four-year deal with a one-year option with New York. Dallas and Florida also tried to lure the free agent.
“Finally I got an offer from the Rangers and decided to stay in the Big Apple,” said Malakhov, who began his career with the New York Islanders. “I really like it here.”
General manager Glen Sather decided not to re-sign defensemen Kevin Hatcher and Mathieu Schneider and use that money on Malakhov. He set his sights on the 31-year-old veteran of eight NHL seasons during New Jersey's Stanley Cup run.
“If you look through the NHL, there aren't many players who can play with this kind of ability,” Sather said. “He was a player that was available and we didn't have to give up any youth to get him. I think he makes us a stronger hockey team.”
Sather will return to New York on Tuesday after being out of town for his son's wedding.
Once he gets back, the new GM is expected to close some big deals that will land the Rangers a new coach, presumably Ron Low, and return Mark Messier to a dressing room that has not been the same since he left following the Rangers' last trip to the playoffs in 1997.
Sather disputed reports Monday that Messier, who had his contract bought out by the Vancouver Canucks, had already signed a two-year deal with the Rangers.
“That's totally untrue,” Sather said. “Mark has not agreed to a contract.”
Messier captained the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup - ending 54 years of frustration.
Low emerged last month as the top candidate to replace John Muckler, who was fired along with GM Neil Smith with only four games remaining in the regular season.
Malakhov, who still owns a New York home, missed the Canadiens' first 53 games with a knee injury. He was placed on the trading block when the club found out that he took his family skiing during the All-Star break even though he had not returned to the Montreal lineup from a torn ligament in his right knee.
He played his first game with the Devils four days after the trade and had a goal and four assists in 24 games. Malakhov, who also had a goal and four assists in the playoffs, spent a little over two years with the Islanders before being sent to Montreal in a deal involving Schneider in 1995.
“He should be in his prime,” said Sather, who expects Malakhov to get plenty of power-play time and take a lot of pressure off captain and fellow defenseman Brian Leetch. “He spent his years learning in the NHL and now we should be able to watch him flourish.”
The Rangers, who had the NHL's largest payroll last season at $61 million, have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
“I just think it was necessary to make some personnel changes on the team, especially with what's gone on the past three years,” Sather said.
The Rangers have also expressed interest in another member of the Devils, forward Claude Lemieux. There is talk New York is set to offer a contract to the three-time Stanley Cup winner, but none has been made yet.
“We have to make some changes so we get into the playoffs,” Sather said. “We've got to make some attitude changes and that might mean making some personnel changes as well and that's what we’re doing.”