The other shoe dropped early Saturday at the NHL draft, with Carolina uncluttering their goalie cupboard by dealing Anton Khudobin to Anaheim in exchange for veteran offensive defenseman James Wisniewski.
Earlier in the day, Carolina landed Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack in exchange for two draft picks (the 66th overall this year and a seventh rounder next year), making Khudobin expendable. The moves in goal freed up some money for the Hurricanes to add Wisniewski, who is set to make $5 million this season and $3 million next year, although he carries a $5.5 million cap hit.
The addition of Wisniewski — and fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin — likely solidifies Carolina’s defense for the 2015-16 season. Anchored by emerging star Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes now have Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Ron Hainsey and Michal Jordan on one-way deals. Hanifin and Ryan Murphy should jockey for a spot, while Danny Biega and Keegan Lowe each got a small taste of the NHL last year.
The 2014-15 season was rocky for Wisniewski: he had 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in just 56 games with Columbus, but was dealt to Anaheim at the deadline for the postseason push — his second stint with the Ducks. But Wisniewski struggled, managing just five assists in 13 games after the trade, and he was a healthy scratch during the Ducks’ playoff run. Wisniewski, 31, has been an elite point producer in the past, including putting up 51 points in 75 games for Columbus in 2013-14.
Wisniewski is a right-handed shot, so it seems unlikely he will be paired with Faulk, also right-handed, in Carolina's top pairing. That leaves veteran Hainsey, who skated aside Faulk after Andrej Sekera was dealt to Los Angeles at the trade deadline, as Faulk’s likely partner when the puck drops in Nashville on Oct. 8.
Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes are familiar with Wisniewski: he played junior hockey for Mike Vellucci with Plymouth from 2000-2004 and played very briefly for Bill Peters in the AHL with Rockford in 2008-09. In his two games under Peters, Wisniewski had three goals and an assist.
‘CANES ACQUIRE JAMES WISNIEWSKI FROM DUCKS
Ranked tied for third among NHL defensemen in power-play goals in 2014-15
RALEIGH, NC – Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has acquired defenseman James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goaltender Anton Khudobin.
"James is a veteran defenseman who has proven his ability to produce offensively," said Francis. "He has a big, right-handed shot, and he will be an important part of our blueline and power play moving forward."
Wisniewski, 31, completed his 10th NHL season in 2014-15, totaling eight goals and 26 assists (34 points) in 69 games with Columbus and Anaheim. The Canton, MI, native ranked tied for third among NHL defensemen in power-play goals (7). He played 56 games for the Blue Jackets before being acquired by Anaheim at the trade deadline in exchange for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Wisniewski (5’11", 205 lbs.) was originally selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fifth round (156th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He has appeared in 551 career NHL regular-season games with Chicago, Anaheim, the New York Islanders, Montreal and Columbus, totaling 53 goals and 221 assists (274 points) and 459 penalty minutes. Wisniewski is a product of the Detroit Compuware youth hockey program, and played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers under current Hurricanes Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci. He also played briefly for Hurricanes Head Coach Bill Peters with the American Hockey League’s Rockford Ice Hogs during the 2008-09 season.