A couple of weeks ago it was first reported that the Jackets were willing to shop around any defenseman not named Ryan Murray or David Savard. With his healthy scratch last night, James Wisniewski was thrust into the rumor spotlight, with many thinking that he was being shielded from potential injury as a trade was being worked out. This rumor came to a head tonight with this report, from Aaron Portzline:
It looks as though Wisniewski's days with the Jackets may be numbered.
It makes some sense, due to the emergence offensively of Savard and Kevin Connauton. These players are younger, and come at a much lower price tag. These two players have combined for a 16-20-36 stat line, with a majority of their points scored at even strength. Wisniewski is sitting at 7-20-27, but almost half of his points come on the powerplay (16).
On the other hand, Wisniewski is a strong possession player, as evident by leading the Jackets last season in CF% at 56.9. This season, he's again leading the CBJ defense, at a slightly lower rate of 51.8. (Murray is actually ahead of Wisniewski in this category, but he's only played seven games)
Wisniewski is also one of the veteran leaders of the Jackets, and thought he does most of his damage on the powerplay, that ability to be a weapon on the man advantage is a big reason why the Jackets have the sixth-best powerplay in the league.
Wisniewski is not a rental player, as he's signed to a reasonable deal with two years left at $5.5 million per season. That kind of control increases his value, as a team looking to acquire him before Monday's trade deadline will be getting a player who can contribute well past this season's playoff run.
There are a handful of playoff-bound teams that could use help on the blueline. One of his former clubs, the Anaheim Ducks, could definitely use his services. The same can be said for the Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and perhaps the Calgary Flames, among others.
In a year where teams are reluctant to trade their first round pick, it will be interesting to see what kind of return he would fetch in a potential trade. With many teams tight to the cap, some salary would have to come back to the Jackets. Would this mean a classic player-for-player deal? Columbus could use a scoring forward. Maybe a second round pick and a very good prospect would get the deal done, or maybe a team will bite the bullet and deal their first rounder.
At any rate, Wisniewski signed with the Jackets at a time when it was seemingly hard to attract high-end talent, and has been a productive member of the organization both on and off the ice. Trading him would be hard on some of the fans, but the emergence of the aforementioned Savard and Connauton will help lessen the blow. A Wisniewski trade has the potential to set the team up for even more success down the road, or depending on the return, trading him could pay immediate dividends. We'll know by Monday afternoon.