For those that have been reading CommittedIndians all season, you might remember that back on Dec. 8 we wondered out loud whether or not the Blackhawks could strike a deal with Anaheim to bring back James Wisniewski. On Saturday, the Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner reported that the Hawks have inquired about doing just that.
A quick refresher on the scenario: Wisniewski played for the Blackhawks for three and a half years before being dealt to the Ducks at last year’s deadline for Sami Pahlsson. Wisniewski was always a tough defenseman who loved to mix it up, but too often paid the price; he has never played more than 68 games in a season.
However, this year has been the best in Wisniewski’s career. In 53 games, he’s averaging a career-high 24:12 in average ice time and has scored 24 points (3 G, 21 A). His career high in points is 26, which he set in 2007-08 with the Hawks when he appeared in 68 games. That year he also served 103 penalty minutes, which he’s cut back in Anaheim this year to just 32 so far. In fact, Wisniewski is third on the Ducks in average ice time per game, behind only Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Whitney.
The two factors the Hawks will consider when making any deal at this point will be the quality they’re bringing back and the future financial impact on the organization. As we pointed out in December, Wisniewski is making $2.5 million this year and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Considering his production this year, Rozner estimates that Wisniewski could see a salary increase to the $4 million neighborhood after this season. While that likely means the Hawks wouldn’t bring him back, it also means Anaheim could potentially save money by bringing in Cam Barker in a deal; Barker is set to make $3 million for each of the next two years, and is two years younger than Wisniewski.
What would make this deal a home run for the Hawks would be that it would take care of three issues. First, they would be bringing back a more productive player if they dealt Barker for Wisniewski; Barker has scored just 14 points (4 G, 10 A) in 50 games this year. Second, they would be cutting $3 million off their books for next year. And third, because of his tenure with the team being as recent as it was and his popularity when he was dealt last year, re-acquiring Wisniewski would likely have a positive impact on the team’s chemistry more than anything else.
We were on board with the idea in December, and continue to hope that this rumor has some merit. If the Blackhawks dealt for Wisniewski, it would be a great move.