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Greg Wyshynski

Rangers sign Prospal; Mark Messier to make coffee, photocopies

Greg Wyshynski
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(Ed. Note: Hello again. Strange hockey stuff from the holiday road post coming up. Thanks to Leahy for fabulous work in the last week, and to 20 Cent for making some news.)

We'll get to the ramifications of the New York Rangers inking Vinny Prospal to a one-year deal (per Larry Brooks of the NY Post) in a moment. But the news that Mark Messier is returning to the Blueshirts in what amounts to a celebrity internship is fascinating.

(OK, so technically it's an "apprenticeship," but that's really only applicable in carpentry or if Messier is going to walk around MSG with a "Fantasia"-style wizard's hat on his bald dome.)

He'll be working as a "special assistant" to Glen Sather, and said he's looking forward to "having the opportunity to learn a new part of the business."

Too bad he's a few weeks late for the lesson on how to trick Bob Gainey into soothing your self-inflicted salary cap torment ...

The AP opined in its news article that this "could be the first step in the process that might lead Messier replacing Sather when the current GM's tenure with the Rangers is over." While that may seem like a Manhattan-sized leap of faith based on Messier's meandering post-retirement life, his desire to become the Rangers' GM one day and Sather's willingness to train him are grounded in fact.

Messier's been hunting for a front office job for years, according to Steve Zipay. Back in 2007, he said he wanted Sather's job when the team president stepped down. Sather's response:

"In today's day and age it's difficult enough to do this job unless you spend some time training, but Mark is capable to do an awful lot of things with his life," Sather said. "He wouldn't be the first athlete that has been able to get into a position of responsibility and do well. It depends on where a guy's ambition is."

Would it be more noteworthy if Messier didn't cry when he finally gets the Rangers GM job?

There's something nostalgically blissful about Messier learning the ropes in the Rangers front office while Scott Stevens gets seasoning in the New Jersey Devils' system for a potential ascension to the coaching gig one day; in the same way it's wonderful to see Steve Yzerman helping to shape the Detroit Red Wings or Mario Lemieux remaining the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

These legacy hirings aren't unique to hockey, but in a way they feel like they should be. Sometimes they work, and other times Pat Lafontaine resigns from the New York Islanders when the backup goalie becomes the GM.

As for Prospal, Brooks nails all the particulars: $1.1 million for an enigma is great, especially when he's a contingency plan for Brandon Dubinsky(notes) as the team's top-line pivot. If Dubinsky's up for the challenge, then Propsal can be slotted as his natural position on the wing down the lineup. Either way, the "bumps" in Dubinsky's contract negotiations have to remain disconcerting for Rangers fans.

If nothing else, the move reunites Prospal again for Coach John Tortorella, and their history of adversarial motivation makes this a delicious reunion.

Please recall one of the single greatest postgame interviews in NHL history, in which Prospal followed a two-goal performance in Feb. 2008 with this classic while the duo were with the Tampa Bay Lightning:

Prospal was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers later that season, though he denied the interview played a role in it. It's that level of delusion that no doubt attracted Sather to Prospal; he is the GM that, after all, blamed the glass and "graphic language about whether Dan Girardi and Marc Staal(notes) have a sexual relationship" for his coach throwing a water bottle at a fan in Washington.

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