Numbers Game: Buying Out Wojtek Wolski

April 27, 2011, by

With the offseason underway, and the buyout period beginningo n June 15, the Rangers are going to have some difficult decisions.  One of those difficult decisions will be with winger Wojtek Wolski, who was acquired in January in exchange for Michal Rozsival.  The acquisition of Wolski was expected to bring increased scoring to the Rangers, who were struggling mightily for consistency on offense.  Wolski helped that, but not to the level that many thought he would.  Although the numbers weren’t what we as fans expected, they weren’t exactly off from his career average.  Wolski put up a line of 6-13-19 in 37 games with the Rangers, which averages out to 13-28-41.  It would have been his worst season, but less than 10 points off from his career average.

What puts Wolski in the château-bow-wow was his consistent inconsistency.  Upon his arrival, Wolski scored three goals in his first eight games, but scored just three in his remaining 34 games, including a gigantic oh-fer in March.  Points alone don’t tell the whole story, as Wolski seemed indifferent and complacent in many games down the stretch, finding himself as a healthy scratch in crucial games in March and April.  Although Wolski was tied for the team lead in playoff scoring (no, seriously, he was) with three points, he was lucky to find more than ten minutes of ice time per game, including games that went into double overtime.  Points don’t tell the story, ice time does.

All that aside, Wolski does have tremendous skill when he wants to utilize it.  His skill and age (24) are the two main reasons why the Rangers have a difficult decision ahead of them.  Wolski is signed for one more year at a $3.8 million cap hit.  However, because he is under the age of 26, his buyout amount is only 1/3 that amount, as opposed to the 2/3 for someone over the age of 26, like Chris Drury.  Thus, the Rangers find themselves in an interesting predicament, as Wolski’s cap hit for a buyout would be $466k next season –a savings of roughly $3.3 million– and $666k extra for the following season.  In essence, if the Rangers decide to buyout Wolski, they will have traded Michal Rozsival for $4.5 million in cap space this offseason.

(And yes, I have full confidence that Glen Sather knew exactly what he was doing in acquiring a player under the age of 26 in the trade.)

That cap space goes a long, long way when courting someone like Brad Richards, who will command big time money this year.  However, Wolski’s history shows that he excels with a play-making center, something he didn’t have in New York.  Arthur Staple of Newsday is convinced the Rangers will buy him out, but that appears to be more speculation on his part than truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that buying out Wolski makes tremendous sense for the Rangers.  In a battle between him and Drury, Drury serves a much bigger role with this club as its captain and best face-off man.  A buyout of Wolski does make fiscal sense, but it does leave the Rangers with a pretty big hole on LW, a position they are weak in to begin with, as Brandon Dubinsky –a center– is their best flanker on the left side.

By opening up a hole on LW, they fill a hole at #1 center.  Of course, that hole could be filled by Chris Kreider, who will likely be returning to Boston College for another season, or Christian Thomas a natural RW who can probably be taught to play the off-wing.  Regardless of how they plan on addressing a top-six LW, it appears that in the choice of Drury and Richards or Drury and Wolski, Wolski will be the odd man out.


  1. Mikeyyyy says:

    You really can’t blame wowo for not scoring when he plays in torts system.

    how many other skill players fared poorly this year?

    Do we buy out gabby cause he couldn’t score while playing defense?

    I bet we don’t make many big moves this year.

    Stay the course. And we will win a cup. Give in the neo-Neil smitheism. And we are doomed.

    • Dave says:

      Well right now, Wolski is taking up precious cap space that can be used to get the elite talent needed for a Cup.

      Heart, guts, and grit are great for depth, but you need skill to win.

  2. The Suit says:

    Wolski is useless in any system. He doesn’t hit, he doesn’t forecheck, backcheck, etc. He’s just another cherry picker with a decent set of hands. I’d buy him out the minute the clock strikes 12.

    His 10 goals are easily replacable.

    • Dave says:

      If he ever gets it together on a consistent basis, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

      Of course, I could say that about Christensen too.

  3. NYRR says:

    Wolski isn’t bad and I believe he can succeed if given a chance. An entire offseason to get acclimated with NYC, the team and have some more time learning the Torts system may bring out the best in this guy. I think it’s worth holding on to him to just about the trade deadline next season until Kreider & Co. are ready to step in or at least until the trade deadline if we have someone stepping up on the Whale and we get something nice in return, especially if we really get him going. Depth was hugely important this year and as you pointed out, we don’t have too many options on the left coming into next season. I’m confident WoWo can overcome his “Polish” nature, as was described above, and put up some better numbers next year. I didn’t know about the under 26 buyout but that’s also a great option. I will reluctantly believe in Sather on whatever he decides…

  4. Mikeyyyy says:

    Not sold on Richards as the magic cure.
    thns assessment
    ASSETS: Has incredible imagination with the puck and excellent playmaking ability. Likes to shoot the puck often when playing the point on the power play. Is a leader by example.

    FLAWS: Isn’t big or physical, so he can wear down against bigger opposing centers. His defensive game has regressed over time.

    CAREER POTENTIAL: Intelligent scoring center.

    We saw this year, torts break down the entire team and re build them. Like the army does to new recruits. Our boys were slow making decisions so they made sure they made the right ones.
    Next step for torts is to have them do it all by instinct so it becomes crisp and ahead of the play.

    Steps to win a cup

    1. Play good d. Done
    2. Have interchangeable pieces. Done
    3. Have players play thi way on instinct. In progress

  5. Sioux-per-man says:

    Makes perfect sense. Very nice article, very well written.

    Why not trade him for something. Maybe a draft pick, or a very good up and coming prospect off another team?

    He is over paid for what he produces. He would have to score 40 goals a year to justify his check, or maybe have a 30/30 year.

    Interesting…. I wonder if it will happen.

    Drury is gone for sure. I don’t give him 10% chance of making this team next year.

  6. Sioux-per-man says:

    Who would need Wolski? Would Toronto make sense for him? I would trade him for Matt Frattin, and another prospect out of their system.
    This way you could give up a player that has a history of scoring, to get someone that has potential… but not the Salary issues.

    • Dave says:

      A cellar-dweller that needs to hit the cap floor. The Panthers and Islanders come to mind.

  7. robert dito says:

    I have a great idea let`s get rid of everybody and keep that useless piece of garbage AVERY how does that sound. 3 goals not bad and let`s keep Sather because James Dolan couldn`t care less about the Rangers.

  8. mbeamer says:

    I say dump him whatever way is cheaper. We’re no longer a team rebuilding. I expect to really compete next year. The guy gave us some moments, but at his price we don’t need a rebuilding project. For 3+ mil a year I want a guy that’s going to show up and play every night. I’d like to see the Rangers get Richards for the first line, Keep Calli, Dubi && AA together for line 2, Keep Boyle, Prust & Feds for another line and mix & match the last line. Dump everyone else on offense over 2-3 mil a year (Avery, Wojo, Drury…) and if we free up the $$ – go after Stastny or some other highly skilled free agents. Stephan & Zucarello need ice time to see what we have and Thomas, Kreider & Borque are knocking on the door.