Monday, July 10, 2006

Shanahan the latest to depart Hockeytown

NEW YORK (CP) - It came down to a feeling for Brendan Shanahan.

Given the opportunity to stay in Detroit for a 10th season with the Red Wings or start anew elsewhere, he felt it was time for change and chose to sign a $4-million US, one-year contract with the New York Rangers.

"It really came down to an instinct I had," Shanahan said Sunday. "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."

He's the second big time player to say goodbye to the Wings this off-season, joining longtime captain Steve Yzerman who announced his retirement last week.

Shanahan joins a Rangers team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1997. The three-time Stanley Cup winner will be counted on to try and help put them over the top.

"To take on a new challenge was a little scary and exciting at the same time," said Shanahan, who scored 41 goals last season.

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 defenceman Aaron Ward (a former Red Wing) 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.

"I like the feeling of having to go out and proving your worth every year," said Shanahan.

He 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.

Shanahan isn't sure how long he wants to play, but if the fit is right he wouldn't mind spending a few years in the Big Apple.

Sather is plenty glad to have him, noting that Shanahan is a player the team had at the top of its 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.

"I saw them as a team that made tremendous strides last year," said Shanahan. "I was really impressed with their desire to improve on that."

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 and grabbing in front of the net. That is where the six-foot-three, 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 goals with the extra man.

"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."


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