Libor Hajek’s Rangers tenure in peril three years after big commerce

Three years and three camps later, Libor Hajek is flying below the radar.

At age 23, he would possibly nonetheless be the participant the Rangers focused within the 2018 deadline commerce with Tampa Bay by which Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller went the opposite method, however the expectations have diminished and the hype has evaporated.

Three years later, it seems as if the lefty defenseman has slid on the organizational depth chart, surpassed throughout the final 12 months by Ok’Andre Miller, free-agent signee Patrik Nemeth and Zac Jones on that facet. Veteran lefty Jarred Tinordi was signed to supply bodily depth.

Therefore, Hajek’s probability of sticking with the Rangers out of camp appears to be in peril. And as a participant who can be required to clear waivers with the intention to be assigned to the AHL Wolf Pack, Hajek’s place within the group would seem tenuous.

“I don’t think about that,” Hajek instructed The Put up earlier than making his preseason debut Tuesday in a match on the Backyard towards the Bruins. “I just do my best and try to impress the coaches with my game. I focus day by day to go out and give 110 percent every time I am on the ice.”

Proper from the beginning, Hajek put far an excessive amount of stress on himself to stay as much as his standing because the “must-get guy” within the commerce. A lot of that burden has dissipated, however the Czech stated that he nonetheless should work on his confidence coming off a 2020-21 season by which he performed 44 of the 56-game schedule on the third pair, partnered primarily with Brendan Smith.

“I think there are still a lot of things to improve on, but I think it was a good season for me,” stated Hajek, who recorded 4 factors (2-2) whereas getting 15:16 per and was on for 23 objectives scored and 21 towards at five-on-five regardless of an anticipated objectives for proportion of 40.04. “I played a lot of games and good minutes.”

Rangers Libor Hajek
Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek has slid down the organizational depth chart.
NHLI by way of Getty Photos

Hajek makes an excellent first cross and skates nicely sufficient to rise up into the play and to negate errors up the ice. However there is no such thing as a “wow” component to his portfolio. He must speed up his tempo and be extra decisive whereas including a dose of stiffness to his sport.

“I need to improve in everything, but most of all, probably in my confidence and to trust myself,” stated Hajek, who stated that he works with a mental-skills coach. “That’s important for me.”

It’s a fragile dance. Confidence accrues by taking part in nicely, however one can’t play with out confidence.

“It’s the pro athlete’s life,” Hajek stated. “I think everyone has that same experience.”

Rangers Libor Hajek
Libor Hajek must clear waivers for the Rangers to assign him to AHL Hartford.
Getty Photos

Coming off his entry-level contract, Hajek is on a one-year, two-way deal signed simply three weeks in the past, below which he would earn $874,125 within the NHL and $70,000 within the AHL. The numbers gained’t discourage anybody from claiming him if, the truth is, the Rangers do place him on waivers on the conclusion of camp.

“I was kind of nervous, but I trusted the process and my agent [Allan Walsh] and I’m glad I got something,” Hajek stated of the delay in getting a contract finished. “Now I just need to do my best, be even better and work my hardest.”

Hajek has solely performed for one NHL head coach, David Quinn, who, by the best way, scratched No. 25 in favor of Anthony Bitetto for the April 20 showdown towards the Islanders that turned a 6-1 debacle of a loss. Now, new head coach Gerard Gallant and a brand new workers — and a brand new normal supervisor, Chris Drury — would be the evaluators and deciders.

“For me personally, everything is good,” Hajek stated. “I met the coaches, they’re good coaches and there’s a lot of good history. I’m happy to get some experience with them.”

Based on Gallant, the early expertise and impression have been optimistic.

“I think the best way to explain him is that I don’t know a whole lot about the guy, but I see him calm out there,” Gallant stated. “He just looks like a steady and solid guy and he’s obviously in the mix with those other guys for the one or two spots that might be available.”

Three years and an administration later, one that isn’t tied to the commerce, we’ll see.

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