The journey Wojtek Wolski pronounced VOY-tek VOL-skee took to get to the NHL is almost as fascinating as the rocky path that led him to signing a one-year, 600,000 contract with the Capitals on Wednesday.
Born in Poland, Wolski left his native country with his parents and older brother when he was 3 years old and settled in Toronto when he was 5. He began playing ice hockey shortly thereafter, stuffing his older brothers oversized skates with crumpled newspapers to allow his feet to fit into them.
There was magic in those skates and as Wolskis body grew, maxing out at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so did his legend.
Although he was ranked fifth in a 2004 draft class that included current Capitals Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, Wolski dropped to 21st overall, where the Colorado Avalanche took him.
Wolski spent the next two seasons tearing up the OHL and set a club record in his final season with the Brampton Battalion with 47 goals and 128 points in just 57 games.
His NHL career started off with a bang when he netted a goal and two assists in his first game with the Avs, and he emerged as a top six forward in his first four years in the NHL, averaging 19 goals and 51 points.
Since then Wolski, 26, has been a major disappointment, averaging just eight goals and 24 points in his past two seasons with the Coyotes, Rangers and Panthers. In fact, some describe Wolski as little more than a shootout specialist.
Its probably the biggest reason Wolski received little interest in the first 10 days of free agency and why his one-year cost to the Capitals is just 100,00 over the NHL minimum. Two years ago, Wolski signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes worth 7.6 million.
I had one bad year and this year was tough with the sports hernia surgery I had, Wolski said in a conference call. This upcoming year is a great time for me to bounce back and show Im still a great player and I still have a lot of life left in me.
Im simply at a point in my career where I want to accomplish something. Ive got to make it work and I think Im ready and able and its going to be a great year.
Because of his inconsistencies and questionable work habits, Wolski already has drawn comparisons to Alex Semin, the player he will be asked to replace in the Capitals lineup. Wolski said hes been told by the Capitals that they see him as a top six forward who can challenge for a role on one of the teams top two lines.
I think I can help on the offensive side, he said. I struggled the last two years but Im definitely highly motivated and very excited and very hungry at this point in time.
Wolski said hes also excited at the opportunity to play for new coach Adam Oates, saying Devils rookie Adam Henrique told him he learned a lot from Oates when he was an assistant in New Jersey. Wolski will also be reuniting with Caps forward Matt Hendricks, whom he roomed with when the two were teammates in Colorado.
What are your thoughts on the Wolski signing? Was he a good pickup at 600,000? Or is he too much of a risk? Join the conversation below.