The New York Rangers have announced that the club has agreed to terms with restricted free-agent forward Jozef Balej.
Balej, 23, appeared in 69 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League last season, registering 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points, along with 46 penalty minutes. His 20 goals ranked third on the team.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has appeared in 185 career AHL contests with the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Hartford Wolf Pack, totaling 51 goals and 73 assists for 124 points, along with 128 penalty minutes. His best AHL season came in 2003-04, when he tallied 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points in 60 games with the two clubs. Balej re-joined the Wolf Pack and helped lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004, appearing in 16 post-season contests for the club. He led the Wolf Pack in all post-season scoring categories, collecting nine goals and seven assists for 16 points and his nine playoff goals tied for second in the AHL.
In addition, Balej was selected as a member of the PlanetUSA squad at the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic.
In 17 career NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens and the Rangers, Balej has collected one goal and four assists for five points, along with four penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut on Feb. 23, 2004 for Montreal, when the Canadiens faced off against the Devils in New Jersey.
On Mar. 2, 2004, the Rangers acquired him, along with a second-round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (Bruce Graham), from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for right wing Alex Kovalev. After being acquired by the Rangers, he made his Blueshirt debut on Mar. 9 at Atlanta and later recorded his first NHL goal/point on March 15 against the New Jersey Devils. Balej skated in a total of 13 games for New York during the 2003-04 season, registering one goal and four assists for five points.
The native of Myjava, Slovakia, was originally Montreal’s third-round selection, 78th overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.