Best post-lockout Ranger: Regional Finals: Ryan Callahan (1) vs. Marian Gaborik (3)

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As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. The Regional Finals started yesterday, with tournament favorite Henrik Lundqvist taking out #3 Ryan McDonagh to win the Tom Renney Bracket. Today, #1 Ryan Callahan is up against #3 Marian Gaborik, with the winner facing Lundqvist in the Final Four.

Ryan Callahan (acquired – 2004 draft, 4th round)

The Rangers actually acquired the draft pick used to select Cally from San Jose in exchange for the negotiating rights to Mark Messier. It’s funny how the Rangers traded the rights to their captain, and used that draft pick to draft a future captain. Cally saw his first NHL action in 2006-2007, playing 14 games with the Rangers. He played 52 games with the club the following season, which included an 11 game stint in Hartford. After that Cally stuck with the club and has been an all-round beast for the Rangers since. In his full Ranger career to date, Cally has put together a line of 121-108-229 in 405 games, and has slowly climbed from averaging 40 points per season to averaging close to 60 points over a full season. Cally has been the captain of the team since 2011, and was an alternate captain from 2009.

There’s not much else to say about Cally. We all know who he is and what he means to this team.

Marian Gaborik (acquired – 2009 unrestricted free agent)

Following the Scott Gomez trade, the Rangers targeting the best scorer on the 2009 free agent market, landing Marian Gaborik to a five year contract worth $7.5 million annually. That first season, Gaborik came as advertised, putting up 42-44-86 while playing 76 games. The second year, Gaborik also came as advertised, as he suffered an injury and his on-ice performance suffered to the tune of 22-26-48 in 62 games. Following a rebound year in 2011-2012 (41-35-76 in 82 games), Gaborik really struggled in the lockout year (following offseason shoulder surgery), putting up just 9-10-19 in 35 games before getting shipped to Columbus.

The gripe most fans have with Gaborik is that he wasn’t consistent, but I don’t think that’s fair. In 3.5 seasons, Gaborik had a pair of 40-goal years, and he played with a pretty bad shoulder in the 2012 playoff run. It’s tough to ask more of Gaborik, who put up 114-115-229 in 255 games. He fulfilled his role as top-line scorer.

In need of depth, the Rangers sent Gaborik to the Blue Jackets (with a pair of AHLers) for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and a 2014 6th round pick. The trade got the Rangers to the playoffs, but most will remember Gaborik not for his 40-goal years, but for his struggles coming out of lockout #3.

So who do you think is the better Ranger, Callahan or Gaborik? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Callahan), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Gaborik). Voting ends at midnight tonight.

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