Rangers Acquire Wojtek Wolski, Cap Space

Updated: January 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm by Alexander Monaghan

Today, the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes made a your-slumping-player for my-slumping-player trade, exchanging Wojtek Wolski and Michal Rozsival.

Before going into the details of the swap, this trade clearly says something about how the Coyotes value Wolski, not to mention how they still are struggling financially. Wolski is a solid eight years younger than Rozsival with the same amount of years remaining on his contract yet the ‘Yotes would actually have to pay 1 million less in “real dollars” to Rozsival since his contract is front-loaded while actually losing 1.2 million in cap space.

Considering the wide discrepancy in age and honestly talent, the Coyotes and head coach Dave Tippett must not have seen a future with the way Wolski plays. Always known to be streaky with boatloads of natural skill, there probably was not a place for him in a tight, defensive system as the majority of the season he played on the bottom two lines or was a puzzling healthy scratch.

Have his skills regressed?

That answer should be addressed quickly as his new head coach, John Tortorella, will either get the most out of his offensive skills (ie. Vaclav Prospal) or be too frustrated with him to use him in a heightened role (ie. Nikolai Zherdev).

An educated guess would tell you that his offensive potential was not enough to make him either a lineup regular in Phoenix or dig his way out of the doghouse. The addition of other defensively responsible and talented players like Eric Belanger, Ray Whitney and the budding Kyle Turris paved the way for his exit.

Similarly, in New York, Dan Girardi and to a lesser degree Steve Eminger replaced Rozsival prior to his recent injury and inevitable trade. As a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman, the Rangers found him expendable since he no longer manned the point on the powerplay or played on the top defensive pairing with Marc Staal. Once Girardi replaced him on the top unit, the eager Eminger proved to be just as serviceable and even more physical on the second pairing.

Considering the Rangers were carrying five of six right-handed defensemen, one clearly needed to be moved and GM Glen Sather did just that by moving his most expensive and depreciating asset.

Fantasy-wise, Wolski definitely should do better in New York. If not, he probably falls off the map altogether. At worst he plays just as inconsistently as the recently lost-for-the-season Alexander Frolov, which is right around where his points projections leave him right now. The main players hurt by this deal are Kris Newbury, Dale Weiss and eventually Prospal and Erik Christensen.

As for Rozsival, it is hard to see where he even fits in Phoenix– when healthy. Either Oliver Ekman-Larssen or David Schlemko get demoted or the Coyotes are looking to swing another deal. Logic states the former which means either Rozsival becomes part of the revolving door on the third pairing with one of the two youngsters and Sami Lepisto or the team plans on demoting another veteran from their veteran blue line. Either way, he likely will not gain value from moving to a defensive system that is devoid of a star like Jaromir Jagr to pad his stats.

To reiterate, this trade is a my crap for your crap swap in which a former high-end talent could get a chance at a new career in one of the game’s biggest stages. We also could see a veteran stabilize a defensive system he once thrived in but I would probably not bank on either. If you have some empty roster space, take a flier on Wolski, but don’t hold onto him should he continue to slump.

Michal Rozsival, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Wojtek Wolski