Is Wojtek Wolski the eventual odd man out in New York?

5 Comments

The New York Rangers’ offseason was dominated by the signing of Brad Richards. Richards was signed to a mammoth nine-year, $60 million contract to help solve their problem of not having a true playmaker to set up Marian Gaborik and lead their offense.

With Richards in place, Chris Drury bought out and made a free agent, and Brian Boyle locked up to a three-year deal while they await deals to be finalized with restricted free agents Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan there are some potential roster questions left to be answered in New York.

According to CapGeek.com, the Rangers have just over $53 million committed to the cap with Dubinsky and Callahan waiting to be signed. Depending on whether or not Glen Sather or the salary arbitrators have some salary savvy in them, you can expect both of them to get a nice a raise. Callahan’s last contract had him making $2.3 million on the cap and Dubinsky’s deal had him making $1.85 million. As both players had better years, you can expect them to get paid a bit more and perhaps for long term deals as well.

Since having cap flexibility is a huge thing for all teams, the Rangers will have some moves to potentially make and some that won’t be easy. That leaves one well-paid winger potentially out in the cold in Wojtek Wolski. As The Daily News’ Jesse Spector writes, Wolski could be a potential buy out victim when the second round of buyouts comes around in a few weeks.

Boyle’s contract leaves the Rangers with a little more than $11 million in cap room to finalize deals with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, whose arbitration hearings are scheduled for the next two Thursdays, plus one more defenseman for the top six (Tim Erixon would cost $1.75 million if he makes the team) and maybe another blueliner for veteran depth.

This squeeze, as well as the fact that the Rangers will have 14 forwards under contract, would seem to heighten the chances of the second buyout window coming into play, 48 hours after the last settlement with a restricted free agent. The Blueshirts’ greatest chance to free up money would be with a buyout of Wojtek Wolski, whose cap hit of $3.8 million would go down to $466,667 for this season, and $666,667 for next season.

With Christensen and Anisimov as wingers and with Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Avery already in the mix to get spots in the top three lines, having Wolski around making that much money and potentially playing on the fourth line doesn’t make much sense. As it is, the fourth line appears to be set with Boyle centering Brandon Prust and newly signed Mike Rupp. Keeping Wolski around as an expensive healthy scratch doesn’t make a world of sense either.

The saving graces for Wolski’s future in New York could be a couple of things. The Rangers will still have breathable room against the cap with him there and how the Rangers forward depth in their system isn’t very good. Having a guy with offensive skills like Wolski around would be beneficial, but as we’ve seen through the NHL money talks and for New York, Wolski might make too much to keep things sensible.

Yeah, we know, sensibility and the Rangers seems crazy but wonders never cease.

The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

AP
Leave a comment

The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

“I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

“It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

3 Comments

Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

“He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick

Stamkos ‘getting really close’ to return

Getty
Leave a comment

It probably won’t happen Thursday against the Red Wings, but Steven Stamkos is getting close to making his return for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I think we can start putting him in the day-to-day category right now,” said Bolts coach Jon Cooper, per team beat writer Bryan Burns. “I don’t see him playing against Detroit. After that, I’d say it’s getting really close.”

Stamkos, who hasn’t played since November due to a knee injury, practiced today with his teammates. He took line rushes and even worked with the second-unit power play.

“Today was probably the best day yet,” the captain said. “Doing better than last time we talked and really feeling better each day now.”

Tampa Bay’s next game after Thursday’s is Saturday against Montreal.

The Lightning are three points back of Boston for the second wild-card spot in the East, but they do hold a game in hand on the Bruins.

A challenging offseason awaits Dean Lombardi

Getty
4 Comments

For the 23rd time this season — the most in the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings lost a game in regulation after they outshot an opponent.

It happened last night in Edmonton, where the Kings outshot the Oilers, 35-29, but lost on the scoreboard, 2-1.

Afterwards, captain Anze Kopitar could only express his frustration.

“It seems like we’re beating the dead horse every night,” Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We outshoot teams, we out-chance teams yet we’re on the other side of the winning part, so bottom line it’s just not good enough. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, we’ve got to be better in both areas.”

It’s mostly offensively. For whatever reason, the Kings have the second-worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the NHL, with only Colorado’s (7.2) being lower.

Perhaps the Kings aren’t getting enough quality shots. Perhaps they don’t have enough quality shooters.

Probably a bit of both.

But it’s something that GM Dean Lombardi will need to address this offseason — assuming he can.

Roster-wise, the big problem for Lombardi is that the Kings have a pair of veteran wingers, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, whose contracts look a lot like anchors.

Brown, 32, and Gaborik, 35, have combined for just 21 goals this season. Meanwhile, their combined cap hit is north of $10 million, and there’s plenty of term left on each deal.

Not helping? Both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending RFAs, and they’re in line for raises.

Oh, and there’s not much in the way of top prospects, either. In the past four drafts, only once have the Kings made a first-round pick. (Adrian Kempe went 29th overall in 2014.)

Eleven points back of the second wild-card spot in the West, the Kings are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They’re in Calgary tonight to take on the Flames.

Related: Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski