Just 19 hours before the free agent season begins, the New York Rangers made a significant move likely to free up more money under the salary cap.
First was the retirement of forward Markus Naslund on May 4th, just 5 days after the team's season came to an end with their opening round collapse at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
Next, the we heard that the Rangers elected not to qualify an offer to impending free agent Nikolai Antropov, whose agent was asking for $5.25 million per season to return to New York.
There is uncertainty as to whether or not the enigmatic Nikolai Zherdev will be back on Broadway as well. Therefore, potentially more cap room for the team should neither re-sign.
Then three hours ago, Rangers general manager Glen Sather made a surprise trade that caught many off guard. Two years after signing a 7-year, $51.5 million contract and not living up to the expectations of that deal, forward Scott Gomez was sent packing to Montréal in a six-player trade.
The Rangers received Long Island native Christopher Higgins and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko. In addition to Gomez, the Canadiens also received forward Tom Pyatt and defenseman Mike Busto.
Even though he did not live up to expectations in New York, Gomez is embracing the challenge that awaits him in Montréal.
"I'm happy to be going to the Mecca of hockey," Gomez told the Montréal Gazette. "I know there'll be some pressure, but that's what it's all about. I got some taste of the Montréal tradition playing for Larry Robinson."
Is this major trade a precursor to major moves to come leading through the opening gun of the free agent frenzy? Time will tell, but if New York wasn't a serious player before today, they are now.
For more on the trade, see the Rangers' news release below.
New York Rangers official news release (June 30):
Rangers send Gomez to Habs in 6-player deal