Rangers trade Wojtek Wolski to Florida Panthers, clearing trade deadline cap space

Several players hit the waiver wire on Saturday — including Brian Rolston of the New York Islanders, Grant Clitsome of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Darryl Boyce of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who was claimed by the Blue Jackets.

Conspicuously absent from that list: Wojtek Wolski of the Rangers, whose $3.8 million cap hit was seen as an essential deletion from their payroll were the Blueshirts to make a significant move at the NHL Trade Deadline. Say, like, for Rick Nash.

Hours later, we learned why: TSN reports that Wolski's been traded to the Florida Panthers for a 2013 third-round pick and defenseman Mike Vernace, who was signed by the Lightning and then traded to the Panthers this season. He's been toiling in the minors since 2006, and had cups of coffee with the Avalanche and Lightning.

ESPN's Katie Strang explains why Wolski fell out of favor in New York:

The enigmatic forward carries a large cap hit of $3.8 million for a player that has been a consistent scratch under coach John Tortorella. Hampered by injury this season, Wolski has struggled to crack the lineup since returning from sports hernia surgery last month and has played in only three games since January 12.

Florida has lost four straight, scoring five goals in that span.

The traded a sixth-rounder for Nashville Predators veteran Jerred Smithson on Friday, a veteran role player who was caught in a numbers crunch. Now they deal a pick and a spare part for Wolski, who'll be a UFA RFA next summer. (NHL Numbers had him UFA; Cap Geek has him RFA.)

Say this for Wolski: As enigmatic as he can be — the word is usually a cliché for European players, but completely relevant here — he's been traded twice and provided instant offense both times.

In 2010, Colorado sent him to Phoenix for Peter Mueller, and he scored 18 points in 18 games. In 2011, he was traded to the Rangers for Michal Rozsival and had eight points in his first 10 games.

Plus, as Darren Dreger notes, he's aces in the shootout: 4-for-9 in 2010-11, which is something the Panthers can use. If he's not still affected by injuries.