On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Rangers claimed Washington Capitals’ defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers.
It’s a move that will have major ramifications for the Blueshirts. The Rangers will absorb Hamrlik’s $3.5 million cap hit, a number that isn’t very cap friendly. What they’re gaining is a 38-year old defenseman whose skills are eroding and hasn’t seen a great deal of ice time this season.
If the Rangers are looking for a “power play quarterback,” Hamrlik’s days as an elite force on the power play appear to be long gone. It’s clear that Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather wanted to shake things up, perhaps Sather jumped too early.
Hamrlik suffered a down year in 2011-12 as his numbers dipped to a career-worst 13 points in 68 games. This season, Hamrlik only played 4 games for the Capitals in reserve duty – registering one assist. He was scratched for 17 of 21 games.
According to various sources, the Rangers discussed the possibility of claiming Hamrlik even before Marc Staal suffered a deeply-concerning eye injury. It’s too early to tell whether Staal’s uncertain status gave Sather the final push needed to claim Hamrlik.
A major concern is adding Hamrlik’s $3.5 million hit, which limits the Rangers’ flexibility as the April 3 trade deadline nears. It’s an ominous sign for the future of star winger Marian Gaborik, whose name has been embroiled in speculation. One scenario believed to have been discussed between the Rangers and Senators was dealing Gaborik to Ottawa for a slew of depth players.
Ideally, the Rangers shouldn’t have hit the panic switch by claiming Hamrlik while they could have used Gaborik as a trade chip to bring in a more mobile, prime-aged offensive-defenseman via trade. That possibility still exists, but it’s more likely Gaborik is floated in a package deal.
It’s not just Gaborik who is affected by the Blueshirts’ waiver claim. Utility-man defenseman Stu Bickel was sat down for the entire third period against the Flyers on Tuesday. Minutes have been hard to come by for Bickel. Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy have pushed themselves ahead in John Tortorella’s pecking order. The possibility of Bickel being passed through waivers is a strong possibility, even with Staal’s status uncertain.
As for Hamrlik, it’s a huge opportunity to make his mark with a contending team after finding his career stagnating in Washington. The Rangers are pinning their hopes on Hamrlik still having a lot of game left in his old bones. I wouldn’t be too confident given Hamrlik’s age and decrease in production.
You can follow Sean on Twitter — @HartnettHockey.