A couple of weeks into free agency, the Caps captured the signature of one time 65 point scorer, 26 year old left winger Wojtek Wolski - for just $600,000. A certain Alex Ovechkin scored 65 points this year, and the Caps paid $9 million for his services. An incredible deal, right? A top six forward for fourth line money? As you'd expect, there's a catch.
Wolski's production has collapsed since 2010. This season, he was regularly hurt with a sports hernia, playing just 31 games for the Rangers and Panthers, scoring 12 points along the way. He played a further six games in the AHL for the Connecticut Whale. These are not impressive numbers at all and if he continued with this production he would struggle to even make the third line. This is why he has be signed to such a low salary this year - the Caps are not prepared to risk top six money on him.
However, Mike Ribeiro, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson - Wolski's likely top six linemates - scored a combined 254 points this year, in 356 games. Riberiro played for a non-playoff Dallas Stars, and Johansson is only 21, and should increase his production in 2012-13. Wolski may well become a better points producer among these players. At 6'3 and 210 lbs, he should also add some physicality to the top six. Of course, with exciting prospects Evgeny Kuznetsov, Forsberg and Wilson in the pipeline, Wolski will have something to prove this year if he wants to win a contract with the Caps again.
Wolski is also a shootout specialist, which will really help the Caps pick up extra points to try and snatch the Southeast division back again this year. Although these will not show up in his stats, this will give the Caps a leg up into the playoffs. If he succeeds with these, the player who is described as 'an enigma' (and we thought we were done with those), could regain confidence and help the Caps in other ways.
The Caps feel that they can turn his career around, and George McPhee believes he is ready for it and self effacing, saying: 'He was really good, really honest, really blunt, and said, I know my career's on the line, I have to play better, I put my foot off the gas.' This all sounds very positive, and that he is ready to take his production to the next level. Playing alongside great playmakers like Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Riberio coupled with his better attitude, there is no reason why Wojtek Wolski can return to form this year, and score over sixty points again. If he can return to this production, the Caps could finally overcome the Eastern Conference Semi Final.