Wojtek Wolski isn't a player worth just above the league minimum. At least he shouldn't be.
Signed to a one-year deal for $600,000 by the Washington Capitals, the 26-year-old left wing knows he's better than that. So he's determined to show it.
"I think this upcoming year is a great time for me to bounce back, to show that I'm still a great player and I still have a lot of life left in me," Wolski said. "Definitely, I'm at a point in my career where I'm at a crossroads, and I've got to make it work. I think I'm ready and able and it's going to be a great year."
The past couple of years haven't been so great. Following a 65-point season in 2009-10, he earned a two-year contract worth $7.6 million and even more expectations than he had as a first-round pick.
A season later, he managed just 12 goals and 23 points in 73 games with the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers. Then, limited after sports hernia surgery, he had just four goals and eight assists with the Rangers and Florida Panthers this past season. He spent plenty of time as a healthy scratch, though, including the playoffs.
Something that has become a familiar refrain this offseason, most recently with Mathieu Perreault, Wolski was told he'd be a top-six forward with the Caps.
"It's definitely in that role," he said. "There's already so many great players in those top two lines. I'd like to help fill another spot in that area."
Wolski will likely have to develop some more consistency to stay there. If he does, this could be the kind of value signing NHL general managers dream of.
It could be the dream scenario for Wolski to recapture some career momentum.
"I think Washington's a great fit. I think the team is offensively minded, I think there's a lot of very creative players. I think with the addition of Adam Oates as a coach, it's going to be good for everyone," he said. "I think there's a lot to learn from him. He was so gifted as a player that he can definitely teach you little things that you may not be able to learn from any other coach."
Oates was one of the reasons Wolski chose the Caps, listening to New Jersey Devils rookie Adam Henrique's endorsement. But the chance to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom or Mike Ribeiro can't hurt, either.
Wolski knows he has the skills to bring something substantial to the Caps' lineup and, by extension, help get him back on track.
"I definitely think I can help on the offensive side," he said. "I'm definitely highly motivated, very excited and very hungry at this point in time, and I look forward to the opportunity to be able to play with great players. I think it's going to be a very positive year."