As the offseason winds down and we begin the countdown to the regular season, it’s time to get familiar with those who will be donning the red, white and blue in Columbus. We’ll take a look at those guaranteed to make the roster as well as those with a shot to make the club out of camp.
Today, we take a look at the defense and, surprisingly (or not so, depending on how you think), one of the Jackets’ top scorers: James Wisniewski.
It’s been quite the path the 30-year-old Wisniewski has paved for himself in the NHL. Since playing his first full-ish season in the NHL all the way back in 2006/07 with the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s spent time with three other teams between the Windy City and his recent tenure in Columbus: two years with the Anaheim Ducks, 32 games with the New York Islanders and just 43 with the Montreal Canadiens.
Wisniewski would ink a six-year, $33 million deal as a free agent prior to the 2011/12 season, showing that the Jackets were willing to go out and grab players they felt could make a difference in their quest to rise up the standings.
It was a rough first two seasons for Wisniewski in Ohio’s capital: he would post a combined 11 goals and 41 points in 78 combined games, missing 52 games over the 2011/12 and 2012/13 lockout-shortened seasons.
But last year, playing in the most games he’s ever played in one NHL season (75 games), Wisniewski set a career-high in assists with 44 and matched his 51-point output of 2010/11. His efforts would be good enough to place him second in Jackets scoring, trailing only the breakout season of Ryan Johansen (63 points).
This year, with the Jackets coming off of their first playoff appearance in years and only being eliminated after a spirited series with the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Penguins, Wisniewski and the veteran leaders on the team will be looking to elevate the team to a higher level both in the standings and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Conference.
Wisniewski will be depended on to contribute that kind of offense once again (he led the team in power play points with 28) and hope that he has finally gotten over the injury bug that has limited him over his career has finally gone away.
He’ll likely play top-pairing minutes again for the Jackets, possibly pairing with Fedor Tyutin, and will see time in all situations, especially on the power play where he is their quarterback from the point.
Wisniewski earned his $5.5 million cap hit last year; if he can help lead the Jackets back into the playoffs and get them a few wins in the spring, we might be talking about how James Wisniewski exceeded his contract next offseason.
Follow me on Twitter: @TwoPadStackRW