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Talented Wolski big pick-up for Rangers

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


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By Jim Cerny,

When Alex Frolov went down with a season-ending knee injury on Saturday night in St. Louis, Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather knew that his injury-depleted roster needed a boost.

So Sather moved quickly, resurrecting month-old trade talks with the Phoenix Coyotes, and acquired winger Wojtek Wolski in exchange for defenseman Michal Rozsival on Monday afternoon.

“I had spoken with (Coyotes GM) Don Maloney a month ago, but we weren’t in a position to try and put the deal together at that time for his situation and for mine,” Sather said after the trade was announced. “When it happened that we lost Frolov, it was obvious we were going to have to fill a hole at some point in time. So we made the call today and the deal came together real quick.”

Only 24 years old, new Rangers forward Wojtek Wolski, already has a tremendous level skill that has always been evident in his remarkable success in overtime shootouts over the past five NHL seasons.
Wolski, 24, is an extremely skilled forward, who scored 22 goals and netted 50 points as a 20 year-old rookie with the Colorado Avalanche in 2006-07. Originally a first round pick of the Avs in the 2004 draft, Wolski was traded to the Coyotes last March and finished with a career-high 65 points by producing 18 points in 18 games down the stretch for Phoenix before adding four goals and five points in seven postseason contests.

This season, Wolski has struggled to find his scoring touch somewhat, producing six goals and 16 points in 36 games, although Sather is confident the 6-foot-3, 215 pound Polish native, who grew up in Canada, will regain his form with the Rangers.

“We think our coaching staff will bring the best out of him, and we like what he brings to the table,” Sather said of Wolski. “He’s a great skater, he sees the ice well, he has a terrific shot, he’s good around the net. And we think we can get that consistently out of him.”

With Frolov joining injured forwards Ryan Callahan, Vinny Prospal, and Derek Boogaard on the sidelines, Sather decided that -- even though the team is playing extremely well - the Rangers’ depth was being tested too much. That, coupled with Wolski’s immense talent, spurred Sather into making this deal.

“He’s got all the talent in the world and the opportunity will be here for him to play in a pretty good position, and we look forward to seeing him play,” said Sather. “He’s a skillful player. And we’ve been trying to build this team around the youth. When a player like this -- who is just 24 years old and has been a pretty prolific goal scorer in the past -- is available and you are moving a guy who is 32 years old and has this year and next year left on his contract, it is a good opportunity for us to get younger and bigger.”

Another key consideration in making this trade was the fact that team brass believes the Rangers’ youthful defense corps is ready to move forward without the presence of Rozsival, its most experienced member with 669 career NHL games played.

As currently constituted, the Rangers’ defense consists of Steve Eminger (27), Dan Girardi (26), Matt Gilroy (26), Marc Staal (23), Michael Sauer (23), and Ryan McDonagh (21). Eminger, who has played 386 career games, has the most experience among current Rangers defensemen.

Sather also would not rule out a return to the NHL for Michael Del Zotto (20) who was sent down to the club’s minor league affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, last week.

“We like our young defense and we think that they are all progressing very well,” said Sather. “We know it’s a little risky. But we have the opportunity to let some of these kids move in to the defensive position, and they’ve all played well.”

Along with getting younger, another important by-product of this trade is that the Rangers gained more room under the salary cap, not only for this season, but for next season, as well. And Sather did not rule out the Rangers making more moves heading towards this year’s trading deadline either.

“That’s the other side of the coin, this has created another opportunity for us which we didn’t have with Rozsival’s $5 million cap hit,” said Sather. “This reduces our cap by $1.2 million, so it gives us more opportunities to do a few other things that may come up in the future. It was a (decision) that was easy for us to make for a lot of reasons.”

With the trade of Rozsival, Henrik Lundqvist is now the longest tenured player with the Rangers. Rozsival and Lundqvist both had started their Rangers’ careers during the 2005-06 season.

Rozsival played in 437 regular-season games with the Rangers as well as 33 playoff games.

“We have nothing but good things to say about him,” Sather said of Rozsival. “He was a guy who was the ultimate professional. He never complained. We liked him a lot. And he’s a great person.”

It is possible that Wolski will be able to make his Rangers debut on Tuesday night when the Blueshirts host the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden. Wolski was due to arrive in New York late Monday night.

“Every trade is a bit of a hit and miss,” said Sather. “But you have to have the opportunity to be able to give a player a chance to succeed. And we are going to give (Wolski) that opportunity.”
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