The Washington Capitals announced Wednesday afternoon they signed free agent forward Wojtek Wolski to a one-year contract, reportedly worth $600,000. Wolski, 26, recorded 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 31 games with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers in 2011-12.
In a conference call, Wolski described his career “at a crossroads” after several down seasons. Wolski was a very highly rated prospect and was a first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2004. His best season was ’09-’10, when the Poland-born, Toronto-bred winger recorded 23 goals and 65 points in 80 games with Colorado and Phoenix, but he’s never really had things completely “click” for him. The Caps will mark the sixth franchise he’s played for in his seven-year NHL career. He’s been traded during the season each of the last three years.
It’s a low-risk, medium reward deal for the Caps and GM George McPhee. Perhaps if Wolski is paired with a skilled playmaker such as Nick Backstrom or Mike Ribeiro, Wolski can finally capitalize on the skill that has enticed every organization he’s played for.
The problem with Wolski is that his production rarely has matched his promise. Last season, playing for an offense-starved Rangers team, he saw his minutes decrease as the season went along, finally leading to be scratched, then traded to Florida — another team in dire need of scoring. He ended up being scratched by the Panthers for the last five games of the playoffs.
For his part, Wolski believes he has the skill to earn top minutes, but realizes he needs to impress to get the opportunity.
“I had one bad year and [last] year was tough with the injury that I had [sports hernia] surgery [which limited him to 31 games]. I think this upcoming year is a great time for me to bounce back, to show that I’m still a great player, that I’ve still got a lot of life left in me. You know, I’m at a point in my career where I’m at a crossroads, and I’ve got to make it work. I think I’m ready and able and it’s gonna be a great year.”
Wolski cited the team’s offensive stars and style – and new head coach Adam Oates — as the primary reasons he chose to sign with Washington. “The team is offensively minded, there’s a lot of great players. The addition of Adam Oates as a coach is going to be good for everyone, I think. There’s a lot to learn from him and I think he was so gifted as a player and he can teach you little things that you may not be able to learn from any other coach.”
As with Matthieu Perreault a few days ago, Wolski related to the media he thinks he will contribute to the Caps on one of the top two forward lines. “There are already so many great players in those top two lines and I’d like to help fill another spot in that area, and I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
“I definitely think I can help on the offensive side,” Wolski continued. “I struggled the last two years but I’m definitely highly motivated. I’m very excited and very hungry at this point in time. I look forward to the opportunity to be able to play with some great players. I think it’s going to be a very positive year.”
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.