Scott Howson's summer of ass-kickery continues, as the team announced this afternoon that it has acquired the negotiating rights to Canadiens defenseman James Wisniewski via trade. Wisniewski is set to become an unrestricted free agent at noon on Friday, but until then the Blue Jackets can negotiate a contract with him exclusively.
The trade is for a conditional 2012 draft pick. At worst, it's a seventh round pick. However, if Columbus signs Wisniewski to a contract, the pick becomes a fifth rounder. Either way, it's a small price to pay for the right to sign a defenseman that seems to fit the Jackets' biggest need on the blue line immediately.
Wisniewski, 27, split time between the Islanders and Canadiens last season. He played in 75 games total, and scored 10 goals while adding 41 assists. He was -14, though it must be stated that he was on a pretty awful Islanders team for his first 32 games. He was especially good for Montreal, playing in 43 games and scoring seven goals and adding 23 assists. He was +4 in Montreal. Most importantly for Columbus fans: he scored seven of his 10 goals and had 22 of his 41 assists on the Power Play.
Listed at 5'11" and 208 pounds, he's not the prototypical defensemen in size, but he makes up for it with his offensive contributions, especially on the Power Play. In addition, he has the coveted right-handed shot this blue line corps has been lacking.
For his career, he's played in 329 games, and has scored 27 goals with 121 assists. He seems to have come into his own in the past two seasons, however, notching 13 of those goals and 68 of his assists--essentially half of his career point totals--in the past two seasons while posting the two highest games-played totals on his career.
If you're looking for any kind of a red flag, the biggest would be if the Jackets can sign Wisniewski, it will be his fifth team in four seasons. Drafted by Chicago in the fifth round of the 2002 draft, he came into the league in '05-'06 with the Blackhawks, and was with them until being traded to the Ducks during the '08-'09 season, ironically enough in the deal that sent potential new teammate Samuel Pahlsson the other way to Chicago.
He played the entire '09-'10 season in Anaheim, and then was traded last summer to the Islanders, who then traded him again in December to the Habs.
Wisniewski made $3.25 million last season, and will be looking for a significant raise after finally reaching UFA status.