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Rangers Sign Former Devils' Malakhov

The New York Rangers signed defenseman Vladimir Malakhov away from the Stanley Cup-champion New Jersey Devils Monday as an appetizer to what is expected to be a key week for the club.

Malakhov, who was acquired by the Devils from Montreal on March 1, signed a four-year, $14 million deal with a one-year option with New York. Dallas and Florida also tried to lure the free agent.

"Finally I got an offer from the Rangers and decided to stay in the Big Apple," said Malakhov, who began his career with the New York Islanders. "I really like it here."

General manager Glen Sather decided not to re-sign defensemen Kevin Hatcher and Mathieu Schneider and use that money on Malakhov. He set his sights on the 31-year-old veteran of eight NHL seasons during New Jersey's Stanley Cup run.

"If you look through the NHL, there aren't many players who can play witwer-play time and take a lot of pressure off captain and fellow defenseman Brian Leetch. He spent his years learning in the NHL and now we should be able to watch him flourish."

The Rangers, who had the NHL's largest payroll last season at $61 million, have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.

"I just think it was necessary to make some personnel changes on the team, especially with what's gone on the past three years," Sather said.

The Rangers have also expressed interest in another member of the Devils, forward Claude Lemieux. There is talk New York is set to offer a contract to the three-time Stanley Cup winner, but none has been made yet.

"We have to make some changes so we get into the playoffs," Sather said. "We've got to make some attitude changes and that might mean making some personnel changes as well and that's what we're doing."

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