After being drafted 21st overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Wojtek Wolski still hasn’t found a home despite possessing good size and skill. His stint with his original team lasted 3 1/2 seasons until he was jettisoned to the Phoenix Coyotes for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter in March of 2010. The trade was seen as a swap of talented but underachieving players at the time. Even a change of scenery couldn’t cure Wolski’s troubles as his tenure with the Coyotes lasted 54 games, mixed in with being scratched from the lineup, after being traded to the Rangers in exchange for D Michal Rosival on Jan. 1o, 2011. The Rangers, feeling their young D was sufficient and needing another forward, took a gamble on the 24-year-old Wolski coming to New York and recapturing his offensive game.
Let’s take a look at his short 2010-2011 season with the Rangers:
What We Expected
For the purposes of this review we’ll just stick with his 37 game stint with the Rangers.
Wojtek Wolski’s arrival on Broadway was strictly to add some secondary offense to a team struggling to score. At the time, sniper Marian Gaborik was mired with inconsistency and your leading scorer was Brian Boyle: not exactly how you wanted things to go offensively. But GM Glen Sather felt bringing in a young, talented forward to the talent pool of the Rangers could only be beneficial. And, since coach John Tortorella has a reputation for demanding the most out of his players, it could be a way to change the enigmatic reputation that preceded Wolski.
Rangers’ fans were excited for the trade. You could say it was strictly because Glen Sather found a way to unload Rosival’s $5 million cap-hit on his buddy Don Maloney for a younger player. Either way, the trade was well received initially.
How He Did
Unfortunately, it was more of the same from the former 1st round pick. He displayed immediate chemistry with linemates Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. However, that would soon dissipate and Wolski found himself struggling to maintain any offensive consistency. Overall, Wolski displayed flashes of brilliance coupled with pedestrian efforts that made you question whether or not he was even playing in the game. It was the same exact troubles Wolski had in Colorado and Phoenix and he did not do enough here in New York to reverse his misfortunes.
In 37 games, Wolski scored 19 points (6g, 13a). He did have some important moments with the Rangers. He scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks on Jan 13th in his first game with the club. He scored the game-tying goal and the winning goal in the shootout on Feb. 22nd to beat the Carolina Hurricanes. Wolski displayed efficiency in the shootout and became a regular in that format. However, it was the lack of consistency and effort for 60 minutes that was troubling to the coaching staff and fan base.
Final Grade: C-
Wojtek Wolski simply did not produce enough after being traded to the Rangers. He did have some key moments with the Rangers in 37 games but didn’t establish himself as a consistent threat offensively. You could live with the numbers he produced if a) he wasn’t so talented and b) gave 100% effort every game. If Wolski played with the heart and intensity that a Brandon Prust or Ryan Callahan routinely displays game in and game out, Wolski could put up 90 points – that’s how talented he is. In John Tortorella’s system, you get rewarded with more ice-time if you play like you deserve to get more. Wolski simply didn’t play consistently well enough to warrant more playing time.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers do with Wojtek Wolski. He is signed through the 2011-2012 season with a $3.8 million cap hit. However, beat writers such as Arthur Staple of Newsday and bloggers have written that the Rangers could buy out Wolski’s contract. Per the CBA, players’ contracts can be bought out at 2/3 of the remaining value. But, if the player is 25 and under, it can be bought out for 1/3 of the remainder, which would save the Rangers $3.33 million against the cap next season. Do the Rangers feel the 24-year-old Wolski can contribute next season despite the less than reasonable cap hit? Or do they feel buying him out is better for the long-term health of the team? We’ll soon find out.