Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate which team got the better end of today's trade between the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes (New York sent Michal Rozsival to Phoenix for Wojtek Wolski):
Burnside: Hello, my friend. Well, we had an honest to goodness hockey trade today. The New York Rangers moved quickly to fill the gap created by the season-ending injury to Alexander Frolov by adding Wojtek Wolski, who was underachieving in Phoenix. In exchange, the Coyotes get much-maligned defenseman Michal Rozsival.
The Rangers get even younger on the blue line, which is a risk. The Coyotes, 16th in goals scored and goals allowed per game, hope Rozsival will help plug the big hole left by the offseason departure of Zbynek Michalek. Is it possible this deal solidifies a playoff berth for both these squads?
LeBrun: Wolski has been real disappointing in Phoenix this season, scoring only six goals in 36 games. But I think it's worth the gamble for the Rangers since he's only 24 years old, which fits into the Rangers' plan.
"I was surprised last year when Colorado traded him," veteran Rangers GM Glen Sather said to reporters on a post-trade media call. "Sometimes these things just come up and it came up pretty quickly today."
The move leaves the Rangers' blue line with a lot of peach fuzz, as you said Scotty.
"We like our young defense," Sather said. "We think they're all progressing very well. We know it's a little risky ... but we felt this was just too good an opportunity to turn down."
The Coyotes, in my mind, never recovered from the loss of Michalek to free agency. While no one will ask Rozsival to replace Michalek, it's a blue-line corps that overall should benefit from his arrival.
Burnside: I think it will be interesting to see how Wolski fits in with a very demanding coach in John Tortorella. In his past seven games, Wolski had zero points and saw his ice time dwindle to less than 10 minutes a night, a sure sign he wasn't putting in the effort for defending Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. Wolski took just seven shifts in his last game for the Coyotes. Two teams have now given up on the former first-round pick after Colorado dealt him at last year's trade deadline, which may or may not be a red flag. He has lots of skill, but he'd better bring it all if he's going to play for Tortorella.
LeBrun: Sather said you don't get a player at this age unless there have been issues. He said it was up to Torts and his staff to bring the best out of this guy. But this deal may pay off in more ways than one for the Rangers. They save cap space in this deal; Rozsival is a $5 million cap hit this year and next, while Wolski is $3.8 million. Sather indicated he would try to use those cap savings to look at another deal or two before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Interestingly, while Rozsival's cap hit is $5 million, his salary next season decreases to $3 million, which means the Coyotes saved $1 million in salary for next season given that Wolski will be making $4 million next season. So while the Rangers save cap space, the Coyotes save actual real-life money.
Burnside: Well, real-life money has always been important to the Coyotes, and they certainly don't have to worry about bumping into the salary cap. Have to imagine Rozsival will thrive playing for Tippett. He'll also benefit from a change of scenery; Rozsival was made a scapegoat at Madison Square Garden, not necessarily for his play, but his salary.
In Phoenix, the points have to come from everywhere in the lineup, and the bottom line is that Rozsival's 15 points is just one behind the number put up by Wolski. He joins a very productive blue line that includes Keith Yandle, Adrian Aucoin and Ed Jovanovski. I can't help but imagine both teams will wake up tomorrow a little happier than they were today.
LeBrun: There's more upside in this trade for the Rangers because of Wolski's age, but I agree both teams get better this season. Wolski had 18 points in 18 games after arriving in Phoenix last season, so you know it's there. If Tortorella can't bring the best out of him, at least the Rangers have only committed contractually to Wolski for another season and a half. It's worth the gamble. Until next time, my friend.