Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen are playing for their Rangers careers in the upcoming playoff series against Washington; that is without doubt. What is in doubt is how that pressure will manifest itself throughout the series. Both players have an abundance of talent, something the Rangers as a team haven’t enough of. However both players have been underwhelming as Rangers and regular visitors to the press box because of their play. The Rangers’ season can be categorised as a success whether they get past the Caps or not, but for some players their futures may rest on whether they produce against the Caps.
Barring an outstanding trade offer, players such as Gaborik will be around next year even if they fail to perform, the contract and skill dictates that. However Wolski and Christensen are far from certain of roster spots next year. With prospects such as Carl Hagelin signed and coming to camp, Evgeny Grachev and Dale Weise expected to challenge for roster spots and the likely presence of successful juniors such as Christian Thomas in training camp Christensen and Wolski are anything but assured a Rangers jersey next season. Competition will likely be fierce in camp once again. This is also not accounting for a full time return of Chris Drury (let’s face it; more likely to return than not) and the elephant in the room, free agents such as Brad Richards. The point is this; Wolski and Christensen are under pressure. They face being casualties of the next stage of the roster make-over after this season if they do not make themselves irreplaceable in the playoffs. This is their audition.
It will be interesting to see how the pressure on these ‘fringe’ players plays out. It could go either way. It could force them to up their games (we’ve seen how Christensen CAN play after scratches) or it could make them play timid, cautious and error prone hockey. If they play like the latter it’s very possible one or even both of them are not Rangers next season. Wolski’s cap hit in particular could be spent elsewhere. So while the Rangers look to build on their good year and look to get in to round 2, some players are just playing for their careers – an interesting sub plot to watch.