Rangers trade Wojtek Wolski

NEW YORK -- With two days to go before the NHL trade deadline, the New York Rangers have traded forward Wojtek Wolski to the Florida Panthers for minor league prospect Mike Vernace and a third-round draft pick in 2013.

By shipping Wolski to the Panthers, the Rangers effectively cleared space to maneuver in advance of Monday's 3 p.m. ET cutoff.

The enigmatic forward carried a cap hit of $3.8 million, a big amount for a player who was a consistent scratch under coach John Tortorella.

Wolski has been a disappointment since being acquired by New York from Phoenix for popular defenseman Michal Rozsival on Jan. 10, 2011. The 26-year-old left winger played in only nine games for the Rangers this season, posting no goals and three assists.

He missed 27 games between Nov. 5-Jan. 5 because of sports hernia surgery and managed to get into the New York lineup for only three games since recovering. Wolski's final game with the Rangers was Jan. 15 at Montreal.

The Rangers are believed to be front-runners for coveted Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, although Columbus' asking price is reportedly very high.

Wolski's departure may not necessarily be a precursor to bring Nash to Broadway -- the team could also use a puck-moving defenseman and power-play specialist -- but it provides the team some flexibility.

Vernace has skated in 348 career AHL games with Albany, Lake Erie, Chicago, Hamilton, Norfolk, and San Antonio, posting 18 goals and 97 assists. He was chosen by San Jose in the seventh round of the 2004 draft.

Katie Strang covers the Rangers for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.