Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is Hagelin's Play Pushing Wojtek Wolski Off Rangers Roster?

The fact that Carl Hagelin for the New York Rangers was something that many expected, but few could have believed he would have this type of impact at NHL level so quickly.   Following his impressive two goal performance last night in Buffalo the 23-year-old rookie winger now has three goals and three assists in eight games for New York. 

John Tortorella has publicly said that he liked what he saw of Hagelin in the preseason and wanted to keep him on the team then, but the consensus was that he needed to go down to play with the Connecticut Whale for more experience.  Injuries to Wojtek Wolski and Mike Rupp along with the suspension to Andre Deveaux and ineffectiveness of Erik Christensen gave Hagelin the opportunity which he has run with. 

As impressive as Hagelin was in his first four games, scoring in each, last night’s performance against the Sabres was more impressive because of it being a bounce back night for him.  Hagelin had not scored in three straight, watching his minutes cut to just 6:40 against the Lightning on Thursday .  The minute decrease was not solely from the lack of points, but because his work level had dropped down.  He got back to doing what makes him successful in using his speed to put pressure on the opposition, working along the walls and being responsible in all three zones.

Hagelin needed an impact game to snap out of his mini funk and he did just that against the Sabres.  He got his night, and the Rangers offense, going with a beautiful shorthanded goal on a slap shot from the left circle that beat Jhonas Enroth far side for a shorthanded goal.  In the third period he gave the Rangers a critical two goal cushion with a very similar goal to his first one racing down the left wing and firing far post from the faceoff circle.

The fact that Hagelin was able to readjust his game and show even more when given the opportunity on the penalty kill not only bodes well for him, but potentially spells trouble for someone like Wojtek Wolski.

Hagelin’s situation is much like McDonagh’s last year in that he was cut out of camp to get more experience in the AHL, got the call because of injury and is looking to ensure he never goes back down.  The question now becomes will the Rangers’ brass respond in much the same way as they did last season in creating his roster spot by moving a large salary like Wolski ($3.8 mil) out either via trade or waivers to keep room for him.  For many the move to eliminate Erik Christensen comes first, but the difference in cap costs might save Christensen over Wolski.

Wolski is only effective in a top six or maybe a top nine role and with Hagelin solidifying himself as a top nine left wing for the Rangers right now the purpose of Wolski at his salary being on the roster diminishes.  Ideally the Rangers would get something for Wolski, but if all they get is cap space to potentially make an acquisition at the trade deadline to make a run, then considering moving Wolski’s contract off the cap is certainly worth looking at thanks to the play of Hagelin.