Christensen, Zuccarello Or Wolski?

July 20, 2011, by

Early yesterday, the guys at CapGeek tweeted that the Rangers have $527,000 in bonuses on this year’s cap, which is essentially an extra player at the league minimum.  With that, the Rangers have roughly $10.6 million in salary cap space to work with before they hit the $64.3 million salary cap ceiling.  There are a few kinks to work out, but the Rangers clearly have a logjam at forward.  When looking at the 14 forwards listed on CapGeek, there are three names that jump out at me as “a spare forward” for this season: Erik Christensen, Wojtek Wolski, and Mats Zuccarello.

Before you get all up in arms about listing Zuccarello there, read on, it will make sense.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Rangers need to dump a forward by either trade, buyout, or demotion.  Competition is good, especially for bottom six guys, but 14 forwards (including Dubinsky and Callahan) is just too many.  Sean Avery and his $1.9 million cap hit is untradeable, so that really eliminates the idea of moving him.  That really just leaves the trio mentioned above, and one of them is going to have to go.

Starting with Zuccarello, the simplest solution is to send him to the minors, where his $1.75 million cap hit is off the books.  That becomes a wash with the Erixon or Del Zotto contract, plus gives the Rangers extra room to add that seventh defenseman at around $1 million.  When all  is said and done in this scenario, the Rangers have 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and a little more than $1 million in cap space.

Moving on to Wolski and his $3.8 million salary ($466,667 and $667, 667  buyout price), he is the biggest enigma on this current Rangers team.  Wolski clearly has skill, but it’s just unfortunate that he picks and chooses when he wants to show it.  I truly believe he can shine on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  However, that is a lot of maybes to stick with someone making $3.8 million.  Especially when his buyout comes at 1/3 the price, not 2/3 the price.

Finally there’s Christensen, it’s easier to see why he would stick around, as his salary is 1/3 of Wolski’s and a little more than half of Zuccarello’s at $925,000.  My feelings on Christensen aside, I think that at his skill set and his price are a good fit for the fourth line on this club.  He is also extremely maddening to watch, but he wouldn’t be given a top line role with Richards in the fold.  I think he stays at this point.

So the Rangers have a choice to make between now and October 1, and it’s not an easy choice.  Much of this will depend on the final cap numbers for Dubinsky and Callahan, so don’t expect any decision on this front soon.  The only thing we can infer is that the Rangers will be sending one of Zuccarello, Wolski, or Christensen away.  I’d have to assume that Zuccarello starts the year in the AHL, and is the first call up for injury replacement.


  1. The Suit says:

    If I was GM and not a well dressed yuppie, I’d buyout WoWo. His effort level doesnt match his cap hit and I’m not ready to give up Zukes. Christensen is priced appropriately for what he’ll be this season, a spare part. Good post.

  2. Zen says:

    I think that buying out Wolski would be a mistake, BUT Sather might have no choice when the dust settles on these RFA cases. He is by far the better player of the three and I don’t think he was given a good enough chance to succeed last year. He came up pretty big in a handful of games, so we knew he has it in him.

    I just don’t know about Zuc. He is a tremendous passer and playmaker, but he just can’t find the net. He also can’t play against bigger players. I personally would look to see if he impresses in camp. If not, look to deal him for a 2012 pick.

    As much as I want EC in Hartford, he just wont’ go away… and his affordable salary will probably ensure he stays. I would love to deal him for a pick, but not sure you can get more than a 5th for him. Maybe he is worth keeping around for shootouts and as an injury fill-in. I hate that I even said that… lol.

  3. Redfish says:

    Zuccarello had a very successful season last year from a player development perspective. It was his first exposure to North American hockey, so there was a necessary adjustment involved and, overall, he did well. He will be much more confident and better this season.

    Why not buyout Avery? That seems like a plausible solution.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      They absorb Avery’s entire salary with a buyout, so the savings is only about $600k, and effectively extends his deal by a year (the cap hit next year would be $1.3m). It’s not a viable solution when the 3 guys Dave mentioned are all options.

  4. paulronty says:

    You must be kidding–there is absolutely no place for Christensen on this team. He won’t be a fourth liner and either WW or Zuke is a better choice. Time to let Eric go.

    • Zen says:

      I think most people agree, but money talks and EC doesn’t make much.

    • OmarLittle says:

      Christensen very likely will be a fourth liner for us, and he was 5 of 8 in penalty shootouts last year. He has a use (albeit a limited one) and for his price it makes sense to keep him around.

      • RangerSmurf says:

        EC’s not a 4th liner. He serves no purpose in a 4th line role.

        He’s a 13th/14th forward that will serve as injury replacement for the top 6, or just a guy that can inject offense during the doldrums of the season. If he’s kept here to play with Rupp/Prust or something, he’s a complete waste, even at $900k

        • Dave says:

          It’s going to be interesting to see how the bottom six play out. There are about 1500 different ways to sort it out, and no matter what, the fourth line is going to have at least one scrub on it.

          • RangerSmurf says:

            I guess if you consider Rupp a ‘scrub’ I think he’s a little better than that, at least compared to some other.

            There’s no ‘scrubs’ among this group:

            Some ‘less than ideal’ guys, but I think you can put together a decent bottom 6 with that group, and that’s assuming Wolski sticking means he’s playing top 6.

            • Dave says:

              Scrub meaning EC or Wolski.

              MZA will be top-nine or in the AHL, same with Hagelin. I really think they both start in the AHL anyway.

              • RangerSmurf says:

                Eh, Wolski’s not a scrub. In an atrocious year he put up 35pts and more than 2 per 60 at ES, and had one of the better Corsi rates on the team.

                Is his effort for shit? Certainly, but he’s got a much, much higher ceiling than Christensen.

              • Dave says:

                I have a much higher ceiling than EC, so that doesn’t say much.

                I’d prefer Wolski over EC too, but EC is $3 million cheaper than Wolski.

              • RangerSmurf says:

                You’re a goalie, it’s apples to oranges with EC.

                The $3m difference only means something if they have bigger plans than a 7th defenseman to add. Else, MZA clears Erixon’s deal, or EC clears the 7th dman’s.

  5. Matt J says:

    At least zuccs plays hard every shift something you can’t say about wolski. Christensen is useless and should score a lot of goals in Hartford. So demote Christensen buyout or trade wolski and keep zuccs.

  6. Dave says:

    You know what would be interesting to see though…Wolski-EC-Rupp as a 4th line. Good skill, although enigmatic skill, and Rupp to do the dirty work. Probably won’t happen or work out, but it would be interesting to see nonetheless.

    • Zen says:

      I agree, though I would like to see Wolski on the top line first. Let’s see what he really is made of… starting the year off fresh with the team.

  7. Walt says:

    Lets see what happends with Dubi, and Calli before we start tradeing people away. I personally think that EC has been given way too many chances, while WW and Zucc haven’t. I realize that WW doesn’t show up every day, but the potential of him with BR & Gabbi is just to juicey to pass up. They all have limited things to offer, EC with the shoot out, Zucc’s ability to pass off the puck, and WW for his over all skills. When all is considered, good bye EC!!!!!

  8. Section 121 says:

    EC’s only positive in the shootouts can be replaced by MZA or WoWo; not to mention probably BR too.


    Good speed and balance on every line with skill and toughness. Every line has the ability to forecheck effectively if need be.

  9. Walt says:

    The thing I like about these postings is we all are playing GM, me included, and there are some great points given daily!!!!!

    Again good bye EC.