Musings

Libor Hajek’s assignment to taxi squad makes his future more unclear

The Rangers announced their 2021 opening night roster and taxi squad with a tweet on Tuesday. There was little surprise as to who made the cut. However, a notable addition to the main roster is rookie K’Andre Miller. He made the cut while the organization assigned third-year defenseman Libor Hajek to the taxi squad, bringing up questions about his future.

Rough Road in New York

The hype around Hajek has certainly died down since the Rangers acquired him in the trade that sent Ryan McDonagh to Tampa Bay. The young defenseman showed promise in his first games for the Blueshirts but suffered a separated shoulder and missed significant time. This is not the only injury Hajek suffered in his tenure with New York. He suffered a knee sprain in December 2019 that kept him off the ice for a month. 

When Hajek was on the Rangers’ roster, his play left a lot to be desired. He played in just 28 games in the 2019-20 season, the most amount of games in his Rangers career. In those 28 games, Hajek earned just 5 assists and a -4 rating. 

In advanced statistics, Hajek had a CF% of 38.2 last season, which was -7 relative to the rest of the Rangers roster. His partnership with Jacob Trouba was largely unsuccessful, and his other pairings weren’t much better.

Injury history and inconsistent play take him out of favor when compared to a young, rising rookie like K’Andre Miller. Miller’s play in camp impressed head coach David Quinn and Miller ended camp paired up with Trouba in scrimmages. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see that pair play together on opening night.

Also, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren emerged as arguably the best, most consistent pairing for the Rangers. That takes away two of the seven available slots on the main roster. 

This is without even mentioning the rest of the defensemen the Rangers have in the pipeline. 

Pressure From the Pipeline

Another young defenseman, Matthew Robertson, made the Rangers’ taxi squad this season. Robertson is coming off an impressive season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, earning 47 points in 60 games and a +5 rating. At 6’4”, 201lbs, he is also bigger than Hajek. Size is always a valuable asset in defensemen.

The Rangers also have the likes of Nils Lundkvist, Braden Schneider, Zachary Jones, Tarmo Reunanen, and Yegor Rykov in the prospect system. That is a lot of young, promising talent competing for a few NHL roster positions.

Libor Hajek is a pending RFA this summer, bringing even more questions about his future into focus. His entry-level contract is set to expire. The Rangers are clearly keeping their options open by building up the defense prospect pipeline. Hajek’s fate in New York may not be sealed. However, it is evident that it will be an uphill battle if he wants to be an NHL mainstay with this team. 

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  • It abundantly clear the NYR traded their former captain and a real good, young top-6 forward for marginal NHL prospects and a middle 6 fwd. I really do not expect either Howden or Hajek to be with the team next season.

    Were the picks in this deal used for K’Andre by any chance? I want to feel better about this trade in some way. This particular trade still hurts when I think about it.

    • To be fair, trades of this nature are often lopsided. Prospects usually turn out better or worse than expected. On the bright side, the Nash trade appears in hindsight to have been a steal.

    • I believe Nils Lundkvist was drafted with a pick from that trade so there is at least that. Hajek has been a bust. I hope management doesn’t compound the problem by trying to justify a bad trade but giving Hajek more chances than his play warrants; he’s a sunk cost. I do think Howden has value; time for him to step up this season.

    • yes and Gorton than traded the pick at #26 and Pick # 48 Draft picks to move to the Ottawa Senators slot at #22 to select Miller. Gorton got some negative feedback from fans because the experts wanted Bokk a RW from Germany, who is not at the NHL yet, but Miller is now here.

    • That trade was as much about the return as it was avoiding McDonagh’s and JT miller’s next contracts. In hindsight would you have given Mcdonagh a 7×7 deal and JT Miller a 5×5 deal? If the answer is no then you can’t let these guys walk for free.

  • During his first season, I thought he was pretty good. After the injuries, though, he’s never been the same. He doesn’t seem confident, he skates like he’s lost a step, he avoids contact. I don’t know, it’s like he doesn’t really want to be out there.

  • His future is unclear anyway as you should know with expansion coming up. Did you think He was going to be in the top 6 dmen.????

    • Hajek started last season as first pair dman with Trouba. It’s been downhill over since. We should be so lucky that Seattle takes Hajek in the expansion draft; that would be his highest value at this point.

  • You can effectively cross Reunanen & Rykov off the prospect list.

    Hajek at this point is McIlrath who doesn’t fight. A little panicked when pressed, can’t really make the head man pass. Unless he gets a mental reset, a replacement level injury callup.

    • 100%: Schneider and Robertson are the next two to be incorporated onto the blueline. The aforementioned prospects could be a pairing.

      In the very near future- The Rangers are going to have a really dangerous blueline: it is going to include some serious size- Trouba, Miller, Schneider, speed- Miller & Fox, toughness- Lindgren now and Schneider in the future, Complete offensive d-men -Fox, with Trouba chipping in a bit and the complete 200 ft. d-men in Nils Lundkvist if he makes it over to the big club. This is not even including Jones.

      The Kings, Ottawa, and Montreal are deep in their farm systems at the Center positions relative to the Rangers on the blueline. Interesting to see if Gorton will swing future trades with one or two of the mentioned teams.

  • I believe the Rangers rushed Hajek into the lineup before he was ready for primetime. I hope they don’t make the same mistake with Miller.

    • They’ve rushed plenty of players over the years, can’t say Hajek was one of them.

      Injuries didn’t help, perhaps sending him down to recover confidence is an issue, but the flaws as are still the flaws.

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