Rangers Claim Defenseman Jeff Woywitka Off Waivers

The New York Rangers, desperate for defensive help after putting Marc Staal on IR, claimed defenseman Jeff Woywitka off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens. Woywitka, 28, played 63 games with the Dallas Stars last season, putting up 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in those 63 games and a +5 rating.  Woywitka then signed as a UFA with the Montreal Canadiens over the summer to a one-year, $650,000 contract.  The Rangers will assume full responsibility for the contract, and will have a $650,000 cap hit for Woywitka.

Looking deeper into Woywitka’s stats, he had a 1.9 GVT last season (.63 PVT). There are no GVT numbers available for Stu Bickel or Brendan Bell (did not play in the NHL last year), but we can look at Steve Eminger’s numbers (0.5 GVT, .17 PVT).  Based on GVT/PVT only, Woywitka is worth about half a point more in the standings than Eminger.  But, it’s not all about GVT/PVT.  We can look at other stats, like QUALCOMP and Offensize Zone Starts, to better quantify what Woywitka brings.

Woywitka’s QUALCOMP of -.078 suggests that he was not exactly facing the opposition’s top players while he was on the ice, which may have led to an inflated +/- rating.  His 54.3% offensive zone starts, when coupled with his less than impressive QUALCOMP, shows that Woywitka was the beneficiary of favorable matchups and situations.  He started over half of his shifts in the offensive zone, which put less pressure on him from a defensive standpoint.  His Corsi numbers look even less appealing, meaning opponents are taking a fair number of shots (either on goal, missed, or blocked) while he is on the ice.

Putting all that together, you have a player who was starting in the offensive zone and against weaker players.  Despite the weaker competition, they still managed to direct a fair numer of shots towards the net while Woywitka was on the ice, suggesting that Dallas didn’t have control of the puck often while Woywitka was on.  However, he did improve upon his 2009-2010 season, for what it’s worth.

That said, comparing those numbers to Eminger’s (-.073 QUALCOMP, 51.9% offensize zone starts, slightly better Corsi), it appears that there is no significant difference between Eminger and Woywitka.  Claiming Woywitka was a move made by the Rangers to address the fact that Bickel and/or Bell might not have been ready for the NHL, but were being kept on the roster because of Marc Staal’s injury.  In Woywitka, they get someone with NHL experience who can be interchangeably used with Eminger.

With the move, the Rangers will need to send at least one player to the AHL.  They may wind up sending both Bickel and Bell to the AHL, but no official announcement has been made.

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