Does Libor Hajek have a future with the New York Rangers
When the New York Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh to signal the seriousness of their rebuild efforts in 2018, Libor Hajek was considered an important part of the return. The belief is that in order to make sure he was added in the package, then GM Jeff Gorton added J.T. Miller.
While many believe this is the worst deal Gorton ever made during his tenure, if Nils Lundkvist turns out to be a great defenseman then it’s a win. The Blueshirts selected Nils with the first-round pick they obtained in that deal.
Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek
The 23 year-old left shot defenseman has had his ups and downs since joining the Rangers. He made his long awaited debut in the 2018-19 season and scored a beautiful goal in his five game stint. Unfortunately, that season was ended abruptly after a shoulder injury.
If we are being fair, he hasn’t really looked the same since. That doesn’t mean his shoulder is hindering his abilities, as correlation does not imply causation.
Hajek struggled the following season and scored five points in 28 games but had a -4 rating. This past year, he looked better defensively in spurts but seemed to lose the offensive side to his game. He managed just 2 goals and 2 assists in 44 contests, but had a +2 rating after being inserted permanently into the lineup in February.
On the surface his numbers look decent. Although, if you dive a little deeper his advanced metrics tell a different story. When Hajek is on the ice, the opposition simply dominates play. His 5 on 5 CF% which measure shots for and against show the defenseman is in the red at 37% last season and 38.6% for his career.
I am not a big fan of CF to measure a player because there are 4 other players on the ice responsible for those numbers. However, it isn’t something that should simply be dismissed.
Does Libor Hajek have a future on Broadway?
So does Hajek have a future with the Rangers? All signs seem to point to that answer being no.
First off, there’s been no word on the progress of his contract talks since he signed his qualifying offer for $874,125. Hajek is an RFA without arbitration rights and holds no leverage. I’ve reached out to his agent Allan Walsh for an update and have not received a response.
More significantly are the moves the Rangers made this offseason that tell the tale. On the left side, Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller are locked in the top two. The signing of Patrik Nemeth is the biggest indicator that Hajek is no longer in the Rangers plans.
Nils Lundkvist is expected to be penciled into the RD3 spot with fellow countryman Nemeth as his partner. The Rangers also signed rugged defender Jarred Tinordi as their 7th defenseman.
Of course, just because Hajek may not fit on Broadway today it doesn’t mean he’s not cut for the NHL. On the contrary, I believe he’s talented with enough tools to be a steady defenseman.
Hajek seems like a good candidate to be included in a trade. Even if it’s to a younger and upcoming team like the Red Wings or Coyotes for a draft pick. Knowing how hard Mr. Walsh advocates for his clients, I wouldn’t be surprised if they quietly asked Chris Drury to trade him elsewhere for an opportunity.
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