NEW YORK -- Brendan Shanahan became the second big-time
forward to say goodbye to the Detroit Red Wings this offseason,
agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4 million with the New York
Rangers on Sunday.
The 37-year-old forward joined longtime Red Wings captain Steve
Yzerman as players who won't be returning to Hockeytown. Yzerman
announced his retirement last week after 22 years in Detroit.
Now the Red Wings have more than just goaltending issues to deal
with after posting the NHL's best record last season. In the span
of seven days, they lost their biggest leader in Yzerman and their
top goal scorer in Shanahan, who netted 40 last season in his ninth
year with the Wings and 18th in the league.
"It really came down to an instinct I had," Shanahan said.
"Detroit has a great past and a great future ahead of them as
well, but I guess I just felt that maybe I was identified with the
past a little bit more than the future."
The Rangers, notorious for overspending on top-name players
often past their prime, had been relatively quiet in the first week
of free agency. They added forward Matt Cullen and defenseman Aaron
Ward from the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes while other
clubs quickly filled up space on the $44 million salary cap by
handing out big-ticket deals.
With room to spend, the Rangers targeted Shanahan, who has 598
goals -- 15th on the NHL career list -- and 634 assists with New
Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, and Detroit. He turned down equal or
higher-valued deals from the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
Both Rangers general manager Glen Sather and Shanahan sought to
complete a one-year contract. Each cited the pressure to perform
and extra motivation as factors in making a short-term commitment.
"To take on a new challenge was a little scary and exciting at
the same time," Shanahan said. "I like the feeling of having to
go out and proving your worth every year."
Shanahan said he received offers for multiple years for several
teams, but decided to join the Rangers after taking a tour this
week of the team's practice facility in Westchester County, viewing
residential areas, and spending time in Manhattan.
He isn't sure how long he wants to play, but if the fit is right
Shanahan wouldn't mind spending a few years in the Big Apple.
And Sather was plenty glad to have him, a player he said the
Rangers had at the top of their free-agent wish list. The original
thought was that Shanahan was likely to remain with the Red Wings,
but once it became known that New York was an option, Sather moved
quickly to get a deal done.
"I said to Glen that I wasn't trying to bust the door to get
out of Detroit," Shanahan said.
The Rangers have shifted course in recent years in an attempt to
rebuild the team with youth. New York snapped a seven-season
playoff drought this year but were swept in the first round by New
Jersey. Shanahan won three Stanley Cup titles with the Red Wings.
"I saw them as a team that made tremendous strides last year,"
he said. "I was really impressed with their desire to improve on
Shanahan earned $2.28 million in Detroit last season when, while
working on a one-year deal, he recorded the sixth 40-goal season of
his career and first since the 1999-2000 campaign.
One of the last true power forwards in the game, the seven-time
All-Star will be a good complement to Jaromir Jagr -- who will not
have to bear the full offensive burden next season.
"We were really looking for someone that could share a
leadership role on our team," Sather said. "Someone that could
play on the power play, someone who was going to be able to move
people around in front of the net and someone with a great shot.
And Brendan certainly has all of those."
Shanahan, the strongest advocate for rules changes during the
NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, took advantage once
the game returned with less clutching, grabbing and mauling in
front of the net. That is where the 6-foot-3, 220-pound left winger
is most effective, especially with the man advantage.
He scored 14 goals on the power play, a unit in New York that
should be even more potent than last season when Jagr netted 24 of
his club-record 54.
"He's big and he's strong and he's a great team guy," Sather
said. "As we got closer to the end of the season, we found that
maybe we needed a little some more size up front, and his
experience in the playoffs would be a huge help for us."