Defenseman James Wisniewski, who was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on August 3, was finally re-signed by the Anaheim Ducks to a one-year contract worth $3.25 million. Sounds good, right?
GM Bob Murray, apparently unhappy with Wisniewski’s bargaining the past two years, traded him later on in the day to the New York Islanders for a third round draft pick.
There is just one problem – the Ducks were hideously thin on defense prior to this move. Now are just plain laughable. With the retirement of Scott Niedermayer earlier, the Ducks have very few top quality defensemen on the roster.
Lubomir Visnovsky is a top two d-man. Acquired at the trade deadline, he was an immediate fit into the Ducks line-up. Toni Lydman was signed as a free agent and he should be a solid addition to the blue line. After that, it drops off precipitously. Sheldon Brookbank is reliable and signed a new contract, but he is not a top four guy by any stretch of the imagination. Luca Sbisa has much promise, but is still young at age 20 and needs seasoning. Brendan Mikkelson and Brett Festerling have spent time between the AHL and NHL and neither are ready or able to fill a top four spot.
Cam Fowler, the Ducks first pick in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft this year, just signed a three year entry level contract earlier this week. He is still a baby at 18 and if he doesn’t make the team after training camp, he’ll go back to juniors for another year. Yes, he is extremely talented. Yes, he has a bright future ahead of him. But no, he is not likely to be ready to take on a defensive role with the Ducks proper this year, especially in light of the weak supporting cast around him.
What exactly does Murray plan to do? It’s not like it is July 1 and there are plenty of guys out there. It’s July 31 and the pickings are getting slimmer. Murray claims that he has “other plans,” yet none of that is in evidence.
This move makes it look very punitive on Murray’s part. Last year Wisniewski was not getting the money he wanted and things were headed towards arbitration. Both sides were able to agree to a one year deal and avert arbitration. This year it was a case of deja vu. Murray stated that he offered a four-year contract that was not accepted by Wisniewski. Once more they were headed to arbitration. Next thing you know, signed, sealed and delivered – to the Islanders.
Wisniewski, who was always refreshingly honest with the media, commented on the trade.
“I thought it was an eighth-round pick,” Wisniewski joked. “I thought I had been traded for a bag of pucks. Maybe some sticks and a pair of used skates. Not brand new.”
The reality is that the trade came as no surprise to the 26 year old.
“Once they had a deal done, it seemed like I was gone,” Wisniewski commented to the OC Register. “Once I signed the deal, I was out of here. I think that was maybe part of the plan. I was thinking during this whole time that Bob was shopping me around. Everybody has their own opinion. If I wasn’t worth that money to them, then hopefully … well, one guy’s junk is another guy’s treasure.”
So now the Ducks are left trying to find some available hidden treasure themselves. They clearly need better D. The O (offense) needs to pick up next year as well. Without it the G (Goaltending) is going to have to be stand on your head stupendous. What that is left with is a whole lot of fans having to pray to G O D for those missing elements.