Tag:James Wisniewski
Posted on: September 21, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Step-back players: Can Columbus' Wiz keep it up?

By Brian Stubits

We see it over and over again in sports. Player has a career year, player gets a fat new contract with new team, said player fails to live up to the new deal.

After an offseason of numerous exorbitant contracts, this description will likely apply to plenty of players this upcoming year. That includes the guy who received the biggest bounty on the first day of free agency, James Wisniewski.

Signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for a robust six-year, $33 million, Wisniewski is the second-highest paid player on an annual basis on a team that includes Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. That's a lot of coin for a player who has one season on his resume worthy of such. In his defense it was last season, so he picked a good time for his best season.

But surely you can see the red flags here. Wisniewski would appear to be a prime target for a step-back season. Now it's possible that last season was the Wiz actually stepping into his prime, after all he is 27 years old now, the magical age in all sports. But when a guy scores 21 more points in a season higher than his previous career high, it is only fair to wonder if it can be repeated. Such a jump indicates likelihood to regress to the mean a little bit.

Throw in the fact that Wisniewski is coming to a new environment, joining players he has never played with before and in an organization that has not had much success to talk about and you have the making for much quieter year.

What could help Wisniewski replicate his 51 points from a season ago with the Canadiens would be getting a lot of ice time, especially on the power play, with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Depending on how quickly they jell up front could impact Wisniewski's play and numbers. He'll certainly share the ice with the two high- scoring forwards a bit, but the more (probably) the better.

Now is as good a time as any to explain the rationale here, because it always gets misunderstood. This is no way to say that Wisniewski or any of the other players below will have bad years. That isn't the object one bit. It's simply players who might see a regression. Think of it this way: If a player is great and he regresses, he can still be very good. That fit Alexander Ovechkin last season, despite still being one of the best players in the league, it can't be argued he didn't have as strong a season last year. Now, on to the ...

Step-back candidates

Michael Grabner/Taylor Hall/Logan Couture/Jeff Skinner/Tyler Seguin/Brad Marchand: We're just throwing all of last season's top rookies into one category and labeling this one the "sophomore slump" group. Chances are one of them won't continue to blossom or match their rookie outputs. If I had to pick one, it would be Grabner of the Islanders.

Teemu Selanne, Ducks: The guy is a wonder, recording more than a point per game last season with the Ducks at 40 years old. But his offseason knee surgery and subsequent wait to see if he'd be ready to go (and advanced age) would seem to indicate a player who doesn't seem likely to keep up his pace. Just playing the odds on this one. Then again, we are talking about Selanne here.


Danny Briere, Flyers: Somebody is likely going to suffer a setback in Philadelphia with the absence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and Briere would be my best guess. He posted 34 goals and 34 assists last season, his highest point total in since 2007-08 and he's no spring chicken any more as he will turn 34 years old on the Flyers' opening day.


Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres: He is coming off a season where he posted 14 goals and 36 assists along with a plus-19. That in and of itself is tough to repeat. My colleague Adam Gretz wrote about the prospect of replacing Ehrhoff in Vancouver, noting that he was a bit protected. Now he will still be surrounded by a very good team in Buffalo, but it's looking like he will be paired with Jordan Leopold, the second defensive pairing behind Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr. It's going to be very tough to replicate his excellent last two seasons.


Michal Neuvirth, Capitals: This is the gamble the Caps are taking by bringing in Tomas Vokoun. Neuvirth was very solid last season, posting a 27-12-4 record with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. They are risking him taking a step back in his growth as a player by relegating him to backup minutes, not to mention the possibility of a hit to the psyche of bringing in another goaltender and naming him the starter soon after the acquisition.


Sean Bergenheim, Panthers: He had the best season of his career with the Lightning a season ago, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists through 80 regular-season games. Where he drew plenty of attention for himself, though, was in the playoffs when he had nine goals for the Bolts. Coming up with the Islanders there had been plenty of hope and potential for Bergenheim, so perhaps he's just starting to break out. I'm expecting a point total in the low 20s, like his numbers in the days on the Island.


NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 15, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:07 pm
 

Markov's knee is still a concern

Markov

By: Adam Gretz

The Montreal Canadiens took a rather large gamble this summer when they signed veteran defenseman Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.2 million contract extension.

It wasn't a gamble because he isn't worth that type of money in the current market as a point-producing defenseman and power play quarterback, but because he's entering his mid-30's and has missed significant playing time in each of the past two seasons, suffering two torn ACL's, the most recent of which cost him all but seven games of the 2010-11 regular season.

It appears that he's had a bit of a setback in his rehab according to Tony Mariano of the Team 990 Radio, and had to have some water drained from his knee three weeks ago.

The setback was reportedly a result of overtraining, which obviously means he needs to now dial it back a notch and take things a little slower. Given that he just signed a contract that's paying him over $5 million per season and has appeared in just 52 regular season games the past two years, the possibility of him not being ready for the start of the season has to be a concern for the Canadiens given how much he means to their defense and power play.

When he's on the ice Markov runs Montreal's power play, logs between 22 and 24 minute of ice-time per game and is one of the top scoring defensemen in the league. During the 2009-10 season, when he appeared in just 45 games, he recorded 34 points, which followed a season that saw him put up a career-high 64 points, a mark that was second among all NHL defensemen that season, trailing only Washington's Mike Green (73).

In his absence last season the Canadiens top power play options on their blue line were P.K. Subban, James Wisniewski (acquired from the Islanders in late December) and Roman Hamrlik. As a group they were good enough to help the team finish with the seventh best power play mark in the NHL (in previous years with Markov in the lineup on a regular basis they were at the top of the NHL). The problem for this season is Wisniewski and Hamrlik have since moved on to new teams, with Wisniewski going to Columbus and Hamrlik signing with the Capitals. If Markov is not ready for the start of the season that would place almost all of the workload on the 22-year-old -- and extremely talented -- Subban to lead the power play.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:13 am
 

Blue Jackets re-sign D Tyutin for six seasons

By Brian Stubits

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Fedor Tyutin to a six-year extension on Wednesday morning, giving him $27 million in the deal. As is often the case with the Blue Jackets, GM Scott Howson broke the news on Twitter.

"Pleased to announce 6 year extension for Fedor Tyutin. Fedor has been our top dman since we traded for him. He signed the deal this morning."

Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch had a little more information on the contract, dishing out the financial numbers.

"Tyutin's deal begins in 2012-'13: 4.0, 4.5, 4.75, 5.0, 4.75, 4.0. It includes a no-trade clause in first 3 years, a modified NTC in final 3."

With Tyutin locked in for some time, the Jackets have a pair of top defensemen who have plenty of time to get acquainted and become a cohesive unit. The other, of course, is James Wisniewski, the high-priced free agent they landed first thing right away in the free-agency period. His contract was also a six-year deal. That gives the Blue Jackets four players with deals that extend six years or longer, joining Rick Nash and Jeff Carter in the forward corps. Clearly Howson believes all of these players are the building blocks to get competitive in the West.

Tyutin has provided a solid game for the Jackets since coming over from the Rangers in a trade that netted New York Nikolai Zherdev among others. In his seven seasons split between the two teams, he has logged plenty of ice time, holding a career average of 21:46 per game. He provides decent offensive numbers (7 goals, 20 assists last season), but when he's with Wisniewski, you have to figure the majority of the puck moving will be the Wiz's responsibility.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 23, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Vinny Prospal signs with Columbus

By Adam Gretz

When the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Kristian Huselius for four-to-six months after an injury he suffered while lifting weights, it was pretty much assumed that general manager Scott Howson would be bringing in another forward to help replace him. On Saturday, Howson announced -- via his own Twitter feed -- that the club had signed free agent Vinny Prospal to help fill a top-six spot in the lineup.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports it's a one-year deal worth $1.75 million (plus bonuses).

There weren't many strong forward options remaining on the free agent market, but Prospal is probably among the best of the bunch. In 29 games last season with the New York Rangers, the 36-year-old winger scored nine goals to go with 14 assists after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury. He is just one year removed from a 20-goal, 58-point effort.

He's not likely to completely replace Huselius from an offensive standpoint at this point in his career, but for one year and that cap hit it should be a solid addition to a Columbus lineup that's already seen a boost thanks to the offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski.

For his career, Prospal has scored 227 goals in 978 games with six different teams (Ottawa, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, New York and Florida).

If you remove Teemu Selanne from the list (he's either going to play for Anaheim or retire), the free-agent forwards still available ranked by point total from last season are Sergei Samsonov, Cory Stillman, Alexei Kovalev, Rob Schremp and John Madden.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 11:18 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Blue Jackets sign Wisniewski to six-year contract

James Wisniewski has signed a six-year contract worth $33 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Wisniewski Conference Call

The Jackets acquired the rights to the defenseman from Montreal earlier this week, trying to get him signed before any other team had a crack.

Wisniewski figured to be one of the more sought-after defensemen today. He might not be the best defender in hockey, but he provides a massive offensive boost to the Blue Jackets' blue line. Acquired by the Canadiens before last season, "Wiz" had 10 goals and 41 assists, leading Montreal defensemen.

The 27-year-old native of Canton, Mich., joins his fourth team in seven seasons, beginning his career with Chicago before moving on to Anaheim.

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.



Posted on: June 29, 2011 6:10 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Free agency: Ehrhoff atop veteran defenseman list

It wasn't long ago that we had a free-agent defensive class that was shaping up with names like Kevin Bieksa, Andrei Markov, Joni Pitkanen and Christian Ehrhoff.

NHL Free Agency

Now all of them are off the market before it even begins. Capped off by the Sabres signing Ehrhoff to a long-term deal, each has signed contracts to stay with their teams (except in Ehrhoff's case since his rights were traded).

As a result we're left with an overall veteran group with mixed-in youngsters.

The hard part is naming a defensive headliner. Is it Ed Jovanovski, the veteran who played most recently in Phoenix? Could it be Roman Hamrlik, a 17-year veteran that still has a few miles left on the tires?

Here are this year's best defensemen (in alphabetical order).

Jonathan Ericsson -- Red Wings: The 6-foot-5 Swede is just 27 and skates well, so he's an intriguing prospect, even if he has been playing mostly as a third-pairing defenseman. At this point there is no deal in place to keep him in Detroit, but that can still be done. If not, though, there will be some suitors intrigued by the big man with very modest offensive numbers (six goals, 15 assists last season). (June 30: Re-signed with Red Wings)


Ehrhoff -- Canucks/Islanders/Sabres: He rejected an offer from the Canucks that was reportedly the exact same as Kevin Bieksa's five-year, $23 million deal and has since been sent to Long Island -- for a few days, at least. Ehrhoff has plenty of offense, scoring 14 goals with 36 assists last season in Vancouver. It's likely the Red Wings will be hot and heavy to sign Ehrhoff to fill Brian Rafalski's void now that talks have broken off with the Islanders. (June 30: Signed with Sabres)

Hamrlik -- Canadiens: At 37, Hamrlik has already declined a one-year offer from the Habs, looking to get something for two or three years. He has taken a lot of heat from the fans in Montreal, but he's still a solid player on the blue line who helped cover for an injured Markov this season. A return to Montreal is still possible, but other teams will a shot, too.


Jovanovski -- Coyotes: He's 34 but can still be a nice addition as a top-two pairing defenseman. The big question is if he can stay healthy. He will surely have a pretty hefty pay cut coming his way after the five-year, $32.5 million contract he signed with the Coyotes, but could be a target for teams like Colorado or Florida looking for experience on the back end.


Tomas Kaberle -- Bruins: He wasn't a great fit in Boston this year, as his time diminished during the playoffs. The big bug-a-boo was not giving much life to the power play, which was a year-long struggle for Boston despite the team's success. The Bruins are still trying to figure out if they want him back, but it looks like the answer will be no. He still can be an offensive contributor, though; he had four goals with 43 assists last season.

Bryan McCabe -- Rangers: Acquired by New York midseason, McCabe's greatest attraction is the offense he provides on power plays. He is coming off a big contract that was big in his falling out with Toronto when the fans didn't feel he was living up to the money. That shouldn't be a problem this time around as he won't get the big bucks.


Wisniewski -- Canadiens/Blue Jackets: He is in the 20-something crowd at 27 and has plenty of offensive potential. After coming over to Montreal from the Islanders, Wisniewski actually put up the most points of any player on this list last season with 51 (10 goals, 41 assists). There are plenty of concerns about him as a defensive player and it looks like the Blue Jackets are going to try and lock him up after acquiring him Wednesday afternoon.

Others of interest: Andy Greene (NJ), Scott Hannan (WAS), Sami Salo (VAN), Brent Sopel (MTL), Steve Montador (BUF)

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com