Marián Gáborík (born February 14, 1982) is a Slovak professional ice hockey right winger currently playing for the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL). He began his career in the Slovak Extraliga with HC Dukla Trenčín for two seasons before being drafted third overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. Spending eight seasons in Minnesota before signing with the Rangers in 2009, Gáborík is the Wild’s all-time leading scorer in goals, assists and points. Internationally, Gáborík is a two-time Olympian with Slovakia and has won a bronze medal at the 1999 World Junior Championships.
Gáborík played with HC Dukla Trencin‘s junior team and scored 59 points over 36 games in 1997–98. That same season, he appeared in one Slovak Extraliga game with Dukla Trencin’s men’s team, scoring a goal in his professional debut. The following season in 1998–99, he joined Dukla Trencin in the Slovak Extraliga full-time and 20 points over 33 games as a rookie. Gáborík then improved to 46 points in 50 games the following season in his draft year.
Gáborík was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft after Rick DiPietro and Dany Heatley. Gaborik with the Wild immediately showed promise during his rookie season, collecting 18 goals and 36 points for the expansion Wild. Gáborík elevated his game the following season, in 2001–02, notching his first 30-goal season and nearly doubling his rookie output to 67 points. He also recorded his first NHL hat-trick near the beginning of the season on November 13, 2001. In 2002–03, Gáborík was named to his first NHL All-Star Game and won the fastest skater competition, lapping the rink in 13.713 seconds. He notched 30 goals for the second consecutive season, but more importantly helped lead the Wild to their first ever playoff appearance. He capped off his third NHL season with 17 points in 18 games as part of a run to the Western Conference Finals.
Contractual issues kept Gáborík from starting the 2003–04 season with the Wild as his initial entry-level contract came to an end in the off-season. Holding out with HC Dukla Trenčín of the Slovak Extraliga, his agent, Allan Walsh, asserted that Gáborík would not take less than $6.5 million a year. After switching agents three times, Gáborík eventually agreed to a three-year, $10-million contract with the Wild on October 31, 2003. Limited to 65 games that season, he recorded 18 goals and 40 points. Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Gáborík again returned to HC Dukla Trenčín where he dominated with 52 points in 29 games. He also saw time with Färjestads BK of the Elitserien.
As NHL play resumed in 2005–06, Gáborík took another step forward, becoming a point-per-game player with 38 goals and 66 points in a 65-game season limited by a groin injury. His season was shortened once more the following season in 2006–07, re-injuring his groin on October 20, 2006, against the Anaheim Ducks. Despite a 10-14 day estimated recovery time, he did not return to the lineup until January 6, 2007, against the Colorado Avalanche two-and-a-half months later. Although Gáborík missed 34 games, he still managed a second consecutive 30-goal season to go with 57 points overall.
On December 20, 2007, Gáborík recorded a six-point game against the New York Rangers with five goals and an assist. This made him the first player in Wild history to score five goals in a game, as well as the first NHLer since Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings did so 11 years earlier (on December 26, 1996, versus the Washington Capitals). At mid-season, he was chosen to his second NHL All-Star Game and would go on to record personal bests of 42 goals, 41 assists and 83 points. Gáborík finished his career year as team captain for the Wild in March 2008. It was the first time in his career he was chosen as part of the team’s monthly rotating captaincy.
Entering the final year of his contract with the Wild in 2008–09, the Wild began negotiations early to re-sign Gaborik. A deal of $80 million over 10 years was reportedly turned down by Gaborik and the Wild consequently began entertaining trade offers from NHL teams. His playing time with the Wild was limited in his final year after being sidelined early in the season with a lower-body injury before undergoing hip surgery in January 2009. He returned to the lineup on March 21, 2009, against the Edmonton Oilers and finished the season with 23 points in 17 games.
Gaborik was unable to sign a new contract with the Wild in the 2008 off-season. He left the Wild after eight seasons as the club’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points.
New York Rangers
Leading up to the free agency period, Gaborik was speculated to have interest in signing with the Vancouver Canucks after The Province reported he had recently bought a home in West Vancouver in the 2009 off-season. Nevertheless, Gáborík signed as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Rangers on the first day of free agency on July 1, 2009. The Rangers signed him to a reported $37.5 million over five years.
Gaborik got off to a quick start with his new club, scoring 10 goals in his first 12 games. Nearly a month into the season, he suffered a knee injury after colliding with former Ranger Petr Prucha in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on October 26, 2009. He missed two games, including what would have been his first game back in Minnesota against the Wild. Gaborik was injured for a second time in the season when his right leg was cut by team goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during a team practice on February 9, 2010.