Gaborik ‘just didn’t fit’ in Columbus, says GM

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Less than a year after acquiring Marian Gaborik from the Rangers in a deadline-day blockbuster, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen flipped Gaborik to Los Angeles in less ballyhooed fashion — and on Friday, he explained his motive for doing so.

“We had thought about it long and hard when we acquired him that we needed a little bit more skill,” Kekalainen told Sportsnet’s HockeyCentral. “I think we still could use a little bit more skill like Marian Gaborik has, but it just didn’t fit and it was time to move on because he was going to go to the unrestricted free agency.”

Acquiring Gaborik was Kekalainen’s first big move as Columbus GM. He sent forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, defenseman John Moore and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft to the Rangers, a pretty high price tag considering Gaborik 1) only had one year left on his five-year, $37.5 million deal, and 2) played just 34 total games for the Jackets, missing extensive time with a broken collarbone and sprained knee.

Injuries were a problem but the larger-scale issue, it seemed, was that Gaborik’s speedy, perimeter-oriented style of play failed to gel with Columbus’ lunch-bucket approach. The Jackets pride themselves on grit and hard work — “we’re a bunch of little rats,” is how Ryan Johansen so eloquently put it — so when the opportunity arose to get something in return for Gaborik (Matt Frattin, a second-round draft pick and a conditional third-round pick), Kekelainen made the deal with L.A.

“Our team is hard working, blue collar, grinding, in-your-face type of team and that’s our identity,” he explained. “We need 20 guys that are like that in our lineup.”