New York Rangers: Libor Hajek is waiting for an unlikely opportunity or a trade

New York Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek has not played in a game this season. It’s looking more and more like a trade could be his only way out of hockey’s version of solitary confinement.

Libor Hajek has done his job for the Rangers this season. Which is another way of saying that he has practiced hard, but has yet to see his name on a game-day lineup sheet.

“Hajek’s made our team out training camp,” Gallant said. “He’s one of 8 defensemen. It’s tough on the guy but he comes to work every day. He’s in the NHL, he’s a good player, and he works hard…it’s a tough decision…he’s a great kid. Wait for your chance and when it comes play well.”

Hajek Must Clear Waivers 

Hajek, 23, would have been sent to the AHL before training camp ended, but he must clear waivers first. This is an unlikely scenario with the NHL experience he has under his belt.

He played in 44 games last season under David Quinn. For his young NHL career, the 23-year-old has played in 77 games picking up 10 points. He hasn’t even reached the 82 games full season plateau but finds himself on the outside looking.

His salary is not an issue with the $874,125 he is making this year. Its’ not about his RFA status after this year. It is about the possibility of losing him for nothing. 

libor hajek rangers
Feb 24, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers defense Libor Hajek (25). Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

An organization that is strong on the blue line, Hajek has little chance of seeing the ice this season in a Rangers uniform.

Aside from the fact that Jared Tinordi, Patrik Nemeth, and Nils Lundkvist are all ahead of him on the depth chart at the NHL level, Zach Jones and Braden Schneider, and a few others are ranked ahead of him in the minors.

He has nowhere to go, alone on his island. 

Hajek was traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning with 1st round draft pick in 2018, 2nd round draft pick in 2019 (Conditional), Brett Howden and Vladislav Namestnikov to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.

Where Might He End Up?

There has been little mentioned with regards to moving Hajek. He has never been able to be the explosive player the team thought they were acquiring in 2016. He has seemed slow and in the decision-making area when he has pressure on him.

This is not to say he can’t develop into a third-pair defenseman, but on this Rangers squad, that is unlikely to happen.

Some possible destinations could be being Detroit, Arizona, or Anaheim. With the team not willing to expose him on the waiver wire any return for the Smrcek, Czech Republic native would be beneficial.

For now, Hajke will practice hard and try to stay patient until GM Chris Drury decides what is best for both the club and his young defenseman.

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