The Ducks avoided arbitration with James Wisniewski today by signing the defenseman to a 1-year contract worth $2.75 million.
“James Wisniewski was a big part of our team’s turnaround last season,” general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. “Being only 25 years old, we expect him to continue improving and make a large impact on our team going forward.”
Wisniewski joined the Ducks in a midseason trade and established himself as a fixture in a talented defensive rotation. Paired with Scott Niedermayer, Wisniewski provided a suitable complement to the smooth-skating captain with his physical play and shot-blocking ability.
On a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Wisniewski said he was hoping to avoid arbitration all along, but also desired something longer than a one-year contract before he eventually came around.
“I understand where Bob (Murray) and the Ducks are coming from,” he said. “They want to see me play a season of injury-free hockey. Hopefully after that, I can become a Duck for a long time after that.”
In a five-year NHL career, Wisniewski has had some trouble staying healthy. Last year was no exception, when an off-season knee injury kept him off the ice until December. He played 31 games for Chicago before he was acquired for Samuel Pahlsson prior to the March trade deadline. In 48 regular-season games between Chicago and Anaheim, Wisniewski had 24 points (3 goals, 21 assists). He added a goal and two assists in 12 Stanley Cup playoff games, one of which he missed while recovering from a bruised lung.
Wisniewski attributes his history of injuries to bad luck.
“It’s never had anything to do with conditioning,” he said. “I’ve always come to Chicago’s camp in the top five in fitness training. … Last season, I played 60 straight games injury-free.”
By avoiding arbitration, the Ducks have been able to circumvent the often-contentious process with every eligible player since Ruslan Salei in 2003.
“Nobody usually likes to hold out at 23, 24 years old,” Wisniewski said. “You always want to come to an agreement and not have a middle party do that for you. … There are no hard feelings or anything like that.”
He joins a made-over Ducks defense that will include newcomers Nick Boynton, Luca Sbisa and Steve McCarthy as well as holdovers Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, Sheldon Brookbank, Brendan Mikkelson and Brian Salcido.
Wisniewski’s first reaction to the changes, including the departures of Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin?
“More ice time for me,” he said.