A difficult NHL off-season has claimed yet another victim. With many veteran players being forced into cheap contracts or overseas ventures, James Wisniewski was unable to even land a guaranteed contract. Once considered a top puck-moving defenseman, the 32-year-old is now in PTO territory, signing a tryout deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail.
Mirtle adds that Wisniewski’s injury concerns likely led to this outcome. “The Wiz” did not have a very magical stint with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, tearing his ACL in his first game with the team and missing the remainder of the season. He was promptly bought out this summer. It seems as though the injury is lingering and no team felt comfortable giving Wisniewski a guaranteed contract for the 2016-17 season. Tampa Bay will get to give him a look in training camp and during the preseason now, without having to make the decision without knowing the full extent of the injury.
Should he look healthy and effective and then be willing to agree to the GM Steve Yzerman’s terms, Wisniewski is capable of having a successful season with the Bolts. The season before last, he put up 34 points split between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks, and the previous season, 2013-14, he had 51 points in 75 games to finish second on the Jackets in scoring. Wisniewski is a very capable puck-moving defenseman who, when healthy, can play top pair minutes and quarterback a power play. While those attributes were seemingly not enough to earn him a guaranteed contract this off-season, they should be enough to see him play somewhere in 2016-17. A tryout contract does not guarantee the Lightning exclusive rights to Wisniewski, and with their depth and cap struggles, it seems more likely than not that he won’t play in Tampa this season, but a strong preseason should see him end up with a legitimate NHL contract elsewhere at the very least. However, a poor showing due to his bad left knee and ACL could mean the end of a once-promising career.