This New York Rangers defenseman will be right back into the fold next season
In January, Libor Hajek was sent down to the Hartford Wolfpack, and did not make an appearance with the team until their scrimmage against the New York Islanders on July 29. Hajek was a healthy scratch for all of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but with the departure of Marc Staal and the Rangers not wanting to rush K’Andre Miller up to the NHL (he will probably start in Hartford), we should believe that Hajek will be in the fold come next season.
Remember, Hajek was the primary asset that New York wanted when they traded Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay was reluctant to give him up, and when he was shipped to New York, executives were raving about him. He showed promise in his first season in Hartford and then in a five game NHL debut, giving fans a glimpse at the future.
Last season was rough for Hajek. He did not look as fast, struggling with strength and constantly getting muscled in the defensive zone. In 28 games, he tallied five assists and when he suffered a knee injury and was sent to Hartford for conditioning, he was never recalled, replaced by Brendan Smith.
Hajek still has the potential that the Rangers saw when they traded for him. While the NHL is still in the off-season, he is working out and staying fresh in the Czech Republic and may play in the Czech league so when the Rangers call his name, he will be ready. He had a bad season last year and will try his best not to replicate it.