When you are paid $7.5 million a year as one of the most gifted goal-scorers extant, you play in a No Excuses League, which, to Marian Gaborik's everlasting credit, he understood through a confounding 2010-11 during which he scored in only 14 games for a meager 22 goals overall.

But there's no question the right wing suffered from the absence of a steady partner in the middle, moving from center to center almost as quickly as head coach John Tortorella can lose patience with people who ask too many questions.

Fact is, Gaborik, who was limited to 62 matches primarily because of an early season separated shoulder and a late-season concussion, opened 21 times with Erik Christensen as his pivot; 21 times with Derek Stepan; 14 times with Artem Anisimov; five times with Vinny Prospal; and once with Chris Drury. Beyond that, Gaborik never started more than seven straight games with the same center, with that dubious milestone achieved with Anisimov from Jan. 16 through Feb. 1.

That didn't leave much opportunity for Gaborik, who never found his mojo (or his lethal quick release), to create chemistry with a center who could deliver the puck to the tape when the sniper found open ice.

But that was then. Brad Richards is now.

For the first time since Wayne Gretzky's first year on Broadway in 1996-97, the Rangers have an elite play-making pivot. And while it would be an overstatement to suggest the Blueshirts decided to pay Richards $90 million as a free agent simply to form a partnership with Gaborik, it would be a gross understatement to suggest that the 31-year-old Slovak's plight and needs weren't significant factors in the signing.

"I respect all the players I've been with but I am very excited to get the chance to play with Richie," Gaborik told The Post by phone yesterday. "I've watched him play throughout his career and always admired his game; the way he sees the ice, the way he moves the puck, the way he makes his teammates better.

"If I'm with Richie, it's going to be very exciting. You can never say how much time it might take to develop chemistry, you need to spend time together away from the ice and develop trust in each other, but I'm really looking forward to getting out there with him."

Gaborik, who scored 42 goals two seasons ago in his first year on Broadway after signing as a free agent out of Minnesota, never has before been united with an NHL elite center in his prime. He's had a passel of linemates in his 10 NHL seasons.