On January 10th, 2010, the New York Rangers sent defenseman Michal Rozsival to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for struggling forward Wojtek Wolski.
Rozsival was the longest tenured Rangers skater, and the only member of the team who had worn the jersey as long as his goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
Rozsival joins a growing list of large contracts that had been shipped out of New York recently, Scott Gomez and Ales Kotalik jumping to mind.
Rozsival was brought in via free agency in 2005 as part of the Czech movement, an acquisition of many Czech players such as Martin Straka and Marek Malik to compliment the team's new superstar, Jaromir Jagr. Rozsival put up respectable numbers in his first few seasons with the Rangers, surpassing the 10 goal mark twice and even hitting the 40 point plateau and winning the NHL's plus minus award in 2006. Rozsival was seen through rose colored glasses by most Rangers fans who jumped on his defense partner, the much maligned Marek Malik.
However, after Malik left town following the 2007-08 season and Rozsival received a massive new contract, Rozsival's defensive struggles became apparent to everyone. Nobody had noticed how he gave up on the play in the neutral zone, because they were too focused on Marek Malik failing to clean up Rozsival's mess. Nobody had noticed his inability to control the puck on the power play, leading to many shorthanded chances. Nobody had noticed his startling lack of physical play nor did they notice his beautiful, crisp, tape to tape passes to the opposing forwards. In addition to all of this, his offensive game had nearly disappeared. Rozsival was now getting all of the much deserved heat from New York Rangers fans.
Towards the end of the 2009-10 season, Rozsival's play had noticeably improved. He was once again playing upwards of 20:00 per night and seemed to earn the respect of coach John Tortorella.
Even I, possibly Rozsival's biggest critic, had to give him credit. There was much hope that he could carry the strong play over into this season, and while he'd never live up to his contract, he could at least be a solid defenseman.
That was apparently too good to be true. Rozsival's play was back to being mediocre, and while a few fans refused to admit it, he was again a defensive liability.
Mr. Sather, I do not know how you managed to pull this one off.
How many times do you see a 32 year old below average defenseman with no upside flipped for a 24 year old power forward with loads of potential?
Goodbye, Michal Rozsival, at least you won't have to hear fans boo you at home games anymore.