July 13, 2009
After losing Chris Pronger(notes) and Francois Beauchemin(notes) this summer, and even with the additions of Nick Boynton(notes) and Luca Sbisa(notes), the Anaheim Ducks defensive corps needed James Wisniewski(notes) back next season.
The restricted free agent played extremely well after coming over at the deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks, and he's a character guy on the roster. Ask a Ducks fan about him last season, and "solid" is the most commonly used adjective.
The Ducks avoided arbitration today by signing him to a one-year deal (terms pending), getting the 25-year-old defenseman back in the fold.
They haven't replaced Pronger and Beauchemin -- not sure how they could have, either -- but Wisniewski gives this group from consistency from year-to-year that they were in danger of seriously lacking with all this changeover.
GM Bob Murray talked about adding free agents while seeing his blue-line change, in a pre-Wisniewski signing interview with The Sun (Calif.) about a group of 11 players left over from the 2007 Cup:
That group dwindled to 10 when Beauchemin was lured by the Toronto Maple Leafs with a three-year contract. While he counted on the return of promising defenseman James Wisniewski, who filed for salary arbitration July 5, Murray consciously sacrificed some depth on defense in order to sign coveted center Saku Koivu(notes).
"We had a good defense, and that almost got us by Detroit," Murray said. "But there is too much pressure on your scorers to score when you're not getting enough. We talked about it and decided we might have to give up something on defense."
Added the former defenseman, "That was hard for me."
Getting Wisniewski back, even for a season, is a sigh of relief move for Murray, who had talked about getting this done all summer.
Speaking of the post-Pronger Ducks, Earl Sleek from Battle of California had a very in-depth evaluation of Anaheim's moves this summer and what they mean for next season, including:
The key in this salary cap game of hockey isn't always about having the best players; it's about having the best contract values. And I can be grateful that for a lot of former Ducks, we got to enjoy them while they were bargains.
Are the Ducks due for a curse? Perhaps -- nothing is set in stone like it was for us in the NiederPronger era. But it's exciting times -- the transformation of a team that was successful in one area of the game to one that tries to be successful in another. Frankly, and I don't know if I've felt this since the Pronger trade, I can't wait for training camp this year.
What's most exciting is the sense that the Ducks are going to be a work-in-progress under Murray this season. For example, you can't move Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) now; but when that cap hit decreases later in the season ...