The largest source of criticism over the signing of James Wisniewski is the amount of money the team has committed to him in his spanking-new contract, and the ensuing argument has been whether or not he was deserving of that type of money. So, why not find out for ourselves? The table below lists the top ten scoring defensemen in the 2010-11 season (Wisniewski ranked fifth):

G A P +/- PPG GW HITS BkS GvA S% 2011-12 CAP HIT
Lubomir Visnovsky 18 50 68 18 5 4 52 116 45 11.8 5.6 M
Nicklas Lidstrom 16 46 62 -2 7 1 49 92 33 9.1 6.2 M
Keith Yandle 11 48 59 12 3 0 30 103 61 5.5 5.25 M *
Dustin Byfuglien 20 33 53 -2 8 6 140 72 59 5.8 5.2 M
James Wisniewski 10 41 51 -14 7 2 108 119 67 6.3 5.5 M +
Tobias Enstrom 10 41 51 -10 6 0 30 137 29 8.8 3.75 M
Christian Ehrhoff 14 36 50 19 6 3 54 108 47 6.7 4.0 M #
Dan Boyle 9 41 50 2 4 2 55 139 51 4.5 6.7 M
Kris Letang 8 42 50 15 4 2 167 109 52 3.4 3.5 M
Shea Weber 16 32 48 7 6 3 211 113 51 6.3 UNSIGNED ^
AVERAGE 13 41 54 5 6 2 90 111 50 7 5.08

* first year of a new contract, increased from 1.2 M in 2010-11
+ first year of a new contract, increased from 3.25 M in 2010-11
# first year of a new contract, increased from 3.1 M in 2010-11; heavily back-loaded contract, actual salary is $10M + $8M bonus, cap hit is seriously misleading
^ unsigned; previous cap hit was 4.5 in 2010-11

The green highlighted boxes on Wisniewski’s stat line are where he is above the average of the ten. He is above average in assists, power play goals, hits, blocked shots, and giveaways. Sixty seven giveaways is certainly nothing to write home about and has him quite a bit ahead of the average, but he also ranks above his high-scoring comrades in other defensive stats (the good ones – blocked shots & hits). Wisniewski’s -14 is also misleading: he was an uncomfortable -18 on the Islanders before being traded to a stable, playoff-bound Montreal team where he was a +4.

Provided that Wisniewski continues his gradual yearly progress (he only had 30 points the year before – still nothing to shake a stick at, though), he appears (at least on paper) to have a good balance of offense and defense. That balance is something the Jackets have long been lacking: what offense they’ve seemed to extract has sometimes seemingly come at the cost of a solid defense (guys like Stralman & Russell, for example).

At a cap hit of 5.5 million, that shakes down to $107,843.13 per point. Compare that to Fedor Tyutin, whom the Jackets are paying approximately $105,324.07. Hardly more than they are paying Tyutin on a per-point basis, with a lot more production. And if you compare Wisniewski to a guy like Shea Weber, whose contract has yet to be market-inflated, they’re paying him only a million more than Weber made last year, and less than he will likely make next year. Compare that also to Christian Ehrhoff who has made out like a bandit from the Sabres’ wallet; his one-point-less has garnered him a Swiss bank account to envy.

In the scheme of things, Wisniewski seems like an overpay, but among his top-10 scoring defensemen, he is absolutely middle of the road. Unless he suffers a steady decline, the Jackets should get exactly what they paid up for.

The verdict: DEAL.

2 Thoughts on “Deal or No Deal: James Wisniewski

  1. Wait…did I detect a criticism of KR in there?

    But an excellent analysis!

  2. Dannielle on July 13, 2011 at 12:20 am said:

    A wee bit. :)

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