National media member James Mirtle is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman James Wisniewski to a Professional Tryout with an invite to training camp.
Wisniewski tore his ACL last year with the Carolina Hurricanes in his first game with the Canes. At the 2014-15 trade deadline, it had been speculated that the Lightning were interested in acquiring the right handed defenseman from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Wisniewski however had a limited no trade clause and did not want to leave Columbus. The list he submitted to Columbus was reported to be mostly teams that either would not want him, were out of the playoffs, or were strapped for salary cap space. That most likely meant the Lightning were off the list. He ended up being traded to the Anaheim Ducks while the Lightning acquired Braydon Coburn from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Wisniewski has been well traveled in his career playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Carolina Hurricanes. He is a veteran of 552 NHL games with 274 points putting him right at the 0.50 points per game market. He is a right handed defenseman with offensive capabilities that the Lightning lack on the right side of the blue line outside of Anton Stralman.
It hasn’t been a full year since Wisniewski tore his ACL. There will be questions about how healthy he is and how much the knee injury will affect his mobility when he does return to the ice. He was scheduled to make $3 million with a $5.5 million cap hit for 2016-17 on his previous contract, but Carolina bought that out meaning he is owed $1 million over each of the next two seasons by Carolina. With his buyout and his injury, the Lightning could potentially sign him to a fairly cheap and bonus laden deal if he proves he’s healthy and capable during training camp.
If he isn’t fully recovered by the time the season starts, the Lightning could still choose to sign him and then put him on Injured Reserve or Long Term Injured Reserve to start the season.
If he is fully healthy, it does create an interesting situation for Slater Koekkoek. Without adding any defensemen to the mix, he is the most likely to be the 6th defenseman on the team. If Wisniewski is healthy enough to play and is signed, it could mean that Koekkoek is pushed back to Syracuse of the AHL. The other interesting option though could be that it opens up the possibility of trading Jason Garrison, moving Braydon Coburn up to the second pair and then partnering Koekkoek up with Wisniewski.
The signing is a zero risk signing for the Lightning at this point. If he doesn’t work out, he can be let go with no obligations or salary cap implications. If he is good to go, he can provide some right handed offense and possibly a power play quarterback from the third pair as well as opening up that possibility of moving Garrison to create salary cap space to finish the Nikita Kucherov contract.