When questioned recently about the Capitals’ need for another scoring winger, General Manager George McPhee said he preferred to lean on the players already under the organization’s umbrella to fill that role. With his latest free agent signing on Wednesday, though, McPhee brought in someone who is a top-six possibility.
Washington signed Wojtek Wolski to a one-year deal worth $600,000, giving them additional depth up front and perhaps a second-line winger.
“There’s already so many great players in those top two lines,” said Wolski, who added that the Capitals have said they see him in a top-six role. “I’d like to help fill another spot in that area and I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
Wolski, 26, recorded 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 31 games during the 2011-12 season, which he spent with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. He struggled with injuries early on as well and underwent sports hernia surgery to repair a lingering groin issue in November 2011.
A native of Poland who grew up in Toronto, Wolski was a first-round draft pick (21st overall) of the Colorado Avalanche in 2004, but after recording more than 40 points in each of his first four full NHL seasons, his offensive production has declined.
“This upcoming year is a great chance for me to bounce back, to show that I’m still a great player,” said Wolski, who was road roomates with Matt Hendricks when both were members of the Avalanche. “I still have a lot of life left in me. I’m at a point in my career where I’m at a crossroads and I’ve got to make it work and I think I’m ready and able. It’s going to be a great year.”
Wolski has reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his career; most recently during the 2009-10 season, when he recorded 23 goals in 80 games with Colorado and Phoenix. That same season also saw him record a career-high 65 points.
The Capitals will mark the fifth franchise Wolski has played for during his career, and part of his movement around the league has been attributed to his inconsistent play.
Last season, Wolski drew the ire of Rangers Coach John Tortorella and went from playing on the top line to the fourth line and then was often a healthy scratch. New York traded Wolski in late February to Florida for a third-round pick and a prospect but by the playoffs he was in the same place – the press box.
Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen scratched Wolski for the final five playoff games and then the team chose not to extend a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent this summer, allowing him to venture into unrestricted free agency. This deal with the Capitals is a sizable pay cut from the $4 million he made in 2011-12 as part of his previous two-year contract, which was worth a total of $7.6 million.
When it came to picking the Capitals, Wolski said the presence of new Coach Adam Oates played a part in his decision.
“I think there’s a lot to learn from him,” Wolski said. “He was so gifted as a player. I think he can definitely teach you little things that you may not be able to learn from any other coach.
“I’ve heard great things about him,” Wolski added. “I’ve heard he’s very positive, very encouraging. Adam Henrique from New Jersey told me he’s helped him a lot this year and has taught him a lot.”
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