Daily Hab-it: What does Wisniewski acquisition mean?
Published Tuesday, December 28, 2010 5:34PM EST Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:11AM EDT
New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski (20) and Atlanta Thrashers center Bryan Little (10) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
Pierre Gauthier may not believe there's much talent available in the second round of the NHL draft, but you've got to give the man credit for using those picks to make some pretty shrewd moves.
Last year it was Dominic Moore, and the latest was the acquisition Tuesday of New York Islanders defenceman James Wisniewski, a good power play quarterback with a heavy shot and some sandpaper in his game as well.
The second round pick is the compensatory pick the Canadiens received for not signing first round bust David Fischer, plus there's a conditional fifth-rounder in 2012 that I would imagine is tied to whether or not Wisniewski re-signs with the Canadiens before becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2011.
At first glance, this is a great trade for the Canadiens. Wisniewski has 13 power play points this season, has played over 23 minutes a night for the Islanders and has been known to play with a bit of a physical edge. He has crossed that line at times, most notably when he got eight games last spring for running Chicago's Brent Seabrook.
Yes, Wisniewski was a team-worst minus-18 with the Islanders this season, and his quality of competition stats at behindthenet.ca don't suggest he was necessarily facing the opposition's top lines every night. However, with all that ice time, chances are that Wisniewski was actually facing a big mix of opposition on a game by game basis.
His career plus-minus numbers are actually pretty strong, and last season was the first time he finished as a minus player with a minus-5 rating in 69 games with the Ducks.
His scoring numbers have also been extremely erratic this season, with two goals and nine assists in the first seven games of the season, one goal and five assists in his last six games, and only four assists in the 19 games in between. The Islanders record in those 19 games was 1-15-3, so clearly Wisniewski was not the only one who struggled over that stretch.
In Montreal, Wisniewski likely won't be called upon to play 23 minutes and he won't be facing the opposing team's top lines on every shift. Plus, playing on a team that is on the positive side of the ledger at 5-on-5 as opposed to one that is second-worst in the NHL in that category will undoubtedly help that plus-minus figure.
The trade will eat up about $1.8 million in cap space for the Canadiens, leaving Gauthier some wiggle room to still play with the cap space cleared up by Andrei Markov's injury.
But Wisniewski's arrival is probably not good news for one of P.K. Subban or Yannick Weber, and right now, I would bet on Weber being the one that gets squeezed out by the acquisition.
Wisniewski is essentially a carbon copy of Weber, except with more experience and more toughness.
Subban's skill set is so unique it is practically impossible to replicate in another defenceman, but I feel Gauthier has just found someone who is an upgrade on Weber. I don't know what Weber has left to prove in Hamilton, and if he's not good enough to play in Montreal then his future with the organization could be seriously in doubt.
This also likely means that Alexandre Picard will be cracking the lineup far less often, assuming of course that this tough love nonsense Jacques Martin has been laying on Subban does not last indefinitely.
While the prospect of losing a young talent like Weber is not a great sign, Wisniewski is only 26 and has played with some quality defencemen in Chicago and Anaheim. Overall, he makes the Canadiens better in the short-term, and in the longer term he could be re-signed as Montreal is set to potentially lose Roman Hamrlik, Hal Gill and maybe even Markov to free agency.