In one of the more stunning moves made at last season’s NHL trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets completed a blockbuster deal that sent offensive superstar Marian Gaborik over from the New York Rangers. Gaborik had been rumored to be clashing with then Rangers coach John Tortorella, and the Blue Jackets were in the middle of their shocking late-season surge that found them in playoff contention. Still, not a lot of people expected the deal to be made. Columbus ended up missing the playoffs literally by a tie-breaker, but they had Gaborik locked up for another year, which gave their fan base a lot of hope for 2013.
Now, however, Gaborik is playing on a contract year. Set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the Jackets will need to decide if they want to try and bring the Czech forward back next season and beyond.
As of now, talks have not started between Gaborik’s camp and Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, however it’s still very early in the season. That said, Kekalainen recently told The Columbus Dispatch he’s looking for a bit more out of the former 40 goal scorer before they consider inking him to an extension.
“I think he’s done a lot of good things,” Kekalainen said. “And I think he could do more. He could be the driving force of the team. I’d like to see him taking charge, driving the team with his example – not only with the points but with everything else he does.
“He’s at the point in his career where he could take the next step in that area. He’s proven he can score points, score goals. I want to believe that even a 30-year-old or a 35-year-old player can get better, and that’s one area that I want to see more from him.”
Currently, Gaborik leads the Jackets in both goals and overall points, so he’s definitely off to a solid start in terms of showing his GM what he can bring to the table. But, as Kekalainen mentioned, it’s about more than just points.
He’s definitely right in keeping an eye on Gaborik, too, as he isn’t immune to off years. Twice in his career he’s scored 42 goals – with the Rangers and the Minnesota Wild – and each time he followed that year up with a significant drop off, whether due to injury or just a lack of productivity. If he can maintain a solid pace to this season, it will definitely help his cause.
Kekalainen went on to say he believes Gaborik wants to be the leader he hopes he can be. However, it’s a matter of seeing that on an everyday basis that will determine whether or not the GM intends on bringing Gaborik back.
“I always say to players: leave a legacy behind you as a great teammate, a great leader, a great example,” Kekalainen added. “Those are the areas he can do a lot more in, and I think he wants to, too. But if you want to be a leader, you have to do it every day.”