NEW YORK – Wojtek Wolski’s disappointing tenure in New York ended Saturday afternoon, when the enigmatic winger was traded to Florida for a third-round draft pick in the 2013 draft, and minor-league defenseman Mike Vernace.
Wolski carries a salary cap hit of $3.8 million. Trading him frees up room for Rangers GM Glen Sather to make other moves before Monday’s trade deadline, including the wildly speculated deal involving Blue Jackets star Rick Nash. The Rangers, who are within $2.4 million of the cap ceiling, can add approximately $10.5 million in salary before the deadline. The math works out because the salary cap is calculated on a per-day basis, so roughly 75% of a player’s salary has already been paid.
Wolski only played nine games all year for the Rangers, and only three times since coming off the injured list in early January.
“This year, through his injuries, then Hagelin comes up and plays, Mitchell comes up and plays, we just run out of spots,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Wolski. “He’s a good guy, I wish him the best. It’s best for him. Our lineup evolved, and there just weren’t any spots.”
Wolski came to New York in a trade with the Coyotes last year, which sent Michal Rozsival to the desert. In 37 games with the Rangers last year, he scored six goals and added 13 assists. But Tortorella never warmed to Wolski’s game, likely because Wolski’s defensive game was not up to the coach’s standards.
“Thanks to the Rangers for the opportunity the last 2 seasons,” Wolski said on Twitter. “Sad to leave NYC but very excited about playing for the Florida Panthers.”
Due to his lack of action, Wolski was sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning stint earlier this month, but still didn’t crack the Rangers lineup upon his return.
“He was fine in the room. He accepted his conditioning assignment down there, he tried to do all the things he needed to do to try to get back in the lineup,” Tortorella said. “It’s a good deal for him, too. Gives him an opportunity to try to get his career back on track. We end up with a draft pick, and I don’t know much about [Vernace]. I think it’s a good deal all around.”
Vernace, 25, has played 348 career AHL games for six teams over six seasons, most recently with the San Antonio Rampage. He has two goals and 14 assists this season. In his career, he’s played 22 career regular season NHL games with Colorado and Tampa Bay, collecting one assist and 10 penalty minutes.
TORTORELLA’S PRE-GAME PRESS BRIEFING: