James Wisniewski was hoping his second tenure with the Anaheim Ducks would be a memorable one. It certainly was, but for the wrong reasons.
Wisniewski was acquired by the Ducks from the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 2 for Rene Bourque and William Karlsson, with each team including a draft pick in the deal. With Columbus out of the playoff picture, the defenseman was excited to receive the chance to make a deep postseason run with the Western Conference’s regular-season champions.
“It’s a dream come true for nobody that’s ever won a Stanley Cup,” Wisniewski said during a conference call after the trade. “Words cannot describe the excitement I have. The year that has gone on in Columbus has been very, very tough. To go to Anaheim, a familiar place and familiar organization, with the success they had, I’m going to try to do whatever I can to help achieve that goal.”
He barely had the chance.
Wisniewski appeared in only 13 of Anaheim’s 18 games following the deal, recording five assists and a minus-3 rating. That was the extent of the 31-year-old’s stint with the club, as he was a healthy scratch for each of the Ducks’ 16 playoff contests.
“Incredibly tough, never thought in a million years I’d be doing this, but it is what it is,” Wisniewski told The Los Angeles Times during the conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks. “There was confusion at first, then anger, but you need to be professional.”
A fifth-round pick of Chicago in the 2002 draft, Wisniewski was traded to Anaheim in March 2009 and set a then-career high with 30 points the following season. That was his last with the team, as he was dealt to the New York Islanders in July 2010.
Wisniewski was anxious to end his second term with the Ducks and got his wish on June 27, when he was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes for goaltender Anton Khudobin. The 5-foot-11 native of Michigan couldn’t have been happier.
“What better team to come to than a team that is going to be hungry this year to redeem themselves, a team and an organization that was pushing to get me?” Wisniewski told the Hurricanes’ website. “That means they want you there and are going to give you every opportunity to succeed. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Wisniewski instantly strengthens a Carolina defense corps that already featured All-Star Justin Faulk and veterans John-Michael Liles and Ron Hainsey. He also brings leadership and the experience of over 550 games over 10 NHL seasons.
“He’s a skilled defenseman who can give you offense on the power play,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis told the team’s website. “He’s got a great shot. I think he’s sneaky tough. He’s just a competitive, competitive guy.”
Wisniewski has appeared in 551 contests, to be exact, with the Blackhawks, Ducks, Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Blue Jackets. He has scored 27 of his 53 goals on the power play and added 221 assists.
After his frustrating 2014-15 season, Wisniewski is ecstatic for his new opportunity with the Hurricanes. And he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make 2015-16 a more enjoyable campaign.
“(Last season) lit a fire in me to have a great season next year. It was a humbling experience,” he said. “I’ll block shots and I’ll try to help the power play. In talking with Ron and (coach Bill Peters) about the system they play, I’m really looking forward to it.”