The Anaheim Ducks have held down the top spot in the Pacific Division for almost the entiety of the NHL season. They are a team with a deep corps of forwards but they have had a need on the blueline for most of the season, a situation made worse by an injury to top blueliner Sami Vatanen. As the 3pm trade deadline passed, the Ducks had made one trade: Ben Lovejoy for Simon Despres. Almost an hour after the deadline passed, one more trade involving the Ducks was announced: they had acquired James Wisniewski from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rene borque, William Karlsson and a 2015 second round pick.
For Wisniewski, it’s somewhat of a homecoming. He played in Anaheim for parts of two seasons from 2009 to 2010. He played in 86 games for the Ducks, scoring four goals and 41 points in his stay in Southern California. His return to Anaheim could be an important part of the Ducks effort to win the 2015 Stanley Cup.
The Ducks have been looking for a right handed defenseman, especially in the wake of Vatanen’s injury. Wisniewski fits that bill and he can help replace Sami on the power play until he returns. Wisniewski’s eight goals and 29 points on the season automatically make him the Ducks second leading scorer on the blueline behind Vatanen.
He will help the Ducks power play as well. He played over three minutes a game on the advantage for the Jackets. Seven of his eight goals have come on the power play this season and he has added seven assists. He doesn’t see a lot of penalty kill time, but with almost two minutes of shorthanded time per game for the Jackets, he can help Anaheim there too.
His possesion numbers aren’t good this season, with a negative 75 SAT score. The good news for Anaheim is that he was a positive player in both of his previous seasons as a Duck. Anaheim won’t need Wisniewski to be their top defenseman, but his presence will help ease the burden on both the young Vatanen when he returns from injury and the Ducks veteran leader Francois Beauchemin.
The one concern Anaheim should have in reacquiring Wisniewski is health. He’s never suited up for a full 82 game campaign and played in only 209 games in four seasons in Columbus. He missed over 20% of the Blue Jackets games. Trading for him to help ease the loss of another injured player could just compound the problem.
Anaheim didn’t give up a lot to get James back in the flock. Rene Bourque was a waiver wire pickup for all intents and purposes and a second round pick, while a useful asset, isn’t a terrible loss.
For Anaheim, it’s a calculated risk to bring Wisniewski back to the Pacific Division. He fills many of the holes the Ducks had and helps them cope with the loss of Sami Vatanen. But the next Wisniewski injury could be just around the corner, as there was concerns he broke his foot in the last Blue Jackets game. Thankfully it’s just a bruise and he should be good to go for the top team in California, but every time he steps on the ice, Ducks fans would be wise to hold their breath. It could be the last time they see him for a while.