Markus Naslund heading to Rangers
The franchise leader in goals and points for the Vancouver Canucks is heading to the New York Rangers.
New York signed unrestricted free agent Markus Naslund on Thursday to a two-year deal. Naslund, who turns 35 on July 20, has spent the last 12 seasons with the Canucks, seven as team captain.
The contract is for $8 million US, with a $1-million signing bonus. Naslund earned $6 million US last season, but his production has declined in recent years.
"I think for anyone who dreams of playing in the NHL, playing for one of the Original Six teams with the history and tradition, it's special," Naslund said on a conference call.
"It was very appealing to me and my family to live in New York and be part of what's going on there."
Naslund has scored 371 goals and 452 assists in 1,035 career games with Vancouver and Pittsburgh. He has added 13 goals and 20 assists in 45 playoff games.
"He's a good skater, he's got a great shot, he sees the ice well. We think that he's going to be able to play a give-and-go kind of a game that we'd like to develop," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said.
"We've changed the style of our team considerably in the last few days. We want to be more of a puck-movement team and a little more of a freewheeling team with defensive responsibilities."
The Swede scored 40 or more goals in three consecutive seasons during his tenure with the Canucks, topping out with 48 goals and 104 points in the 2002-03 season.
Naslund's scoring numbers have gone down in recent years from a career-best 48 goals and 104 points in 2002-03 to 25 goals and 55 points last season.
"Since July 1, my eyes have been set on the Rangers. It ended up taking a little bit longer but I'm very pleased that I'm a Ranger now," he said on a conference call from Sweden.
"I want to feel that I play on a level where I know I can play. I want to play better hockey than I have the past few years. That's why I'm looking at this as a challenge for me to prove that."
Naslund came over to the Canucks in 1996 from Pittsburgh for Alex Stojanov, which became one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.
He won the 2003 Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL's top player as voted by peers.
Canucks make statement
New Vancouver GM Mike Gillis lauded Naslund in a statement released by the club.
"As an organization we would like to thank Markus Naslund for his 12 exemplary seasons in a Canucks sweater," Gillis said. "Markus is one of the greatest athletes to ever represent the Canucks, both on and off of the ice.
"His on-ice success sees him leave the organization among the club leaders in almost every offensive category.
Naslund is New York's second big signing of an unrestricted free agent who has spent over a decade in Canada. The Rangers inked former Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden on Tuesday.
The Rangers have been looking for help up front. The team lost Sean Avery to free agency and Martin Straka decided to play in Europe. It is unknown whether Jaromir Jagr or Brendan Shanahan will return to Broadway.
Rangers sign Kalinin, too
New York acquired forward Nikolai Zherdev from Columbus on Wednesday in a four-player deal.
On Thursday, the Rangers also signed defenceman Dmitri Kalinin, the longtime Buffalo Sabres defenceman.
The Russian was selected 18th overall by Buffalo in the 1998 NHL draft and has played all 466 NHL games with the Sabres. He has recorded 34 goals and 111 assists in his career.
Kalinin, who turns 28 later in July, appeared in just 48 games the past season. Over the past year, he has dealt with shoulder, knee and sports hernia injuries.
With files from the Canadian Press