Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather has stepped down as GM and was replaced by assistant general manager Jeff Gorton, the team announced Wednesday.

Sather will retain his role as team president.

Gorton, 46, a former assistant general manager of the Bruins, has been Sather's right-hand man for four years. He has long been considered the likely successor as general manager. Sather, who turns 72 in September, held the dual roles since 2000.

Sather's tenure has been widely debated since he had surgery for prostate cancer in March 2013, which Newsday first reported, but health is not an issue.

He guided the Edmonton Oilers to five Stanley Cups, four as a head coach, and one as general manager. In early June, a Rangers spokesman did not deny that Sather was considering changing his role. A further indication of a possible shift came when Gorton, not Sather, as has been the case for years, discussed the trades of Cam Talbot and Carl Hagelin with the media at the NHL Draft in Sunrise, Florida, on June 27.

Sather, who often accompanies the team on road trips, will maintain considerable input but be less involved in day-to-day operations.

During this year's playoffs, both the Bruins and Maple Leafs asked the Rangers for permission to speak with Gorton and were denied. Gorton, who oversees hockey operations and handles cap issues for the Rangers, served as Bruins interim general manager for more than three months in 2006.

During his tenure in Boston, Gorton acquired goaltender Tuukka Rask in a trade for Andrew Raycroft, landed Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand in the 2006 draft and acquired free agent Zdeno Chara.

With his trades of prospects and free-agent signings, Sather helped shape the Rangers into a club that has been in the NHL's final four in three of the past four seasons. He also chose Alain Vigneault over Mark Messier as coach two years ago.

In player moves, the Rangers brought back free-agent defenseman Raphael Diaz, who played for them in 2013-14.