First off, new to the blog and just wanted to say really enjoy the coverage you guys and gals provide on my favorite sports team (a big angels and lakers fan as well, but they're not hockey).
Just wanted to chime in and role play as Bob Murray for my first fanpost. Hopefully, it has some insight that might spark some dialog...
The Biz is "Wiz," or more specifically, James Wisniewski and the debate as I have read it the past few weeks is as follows... Is he worth signing for the raise he will most likely recieve this offseason as a restricted free agent?
As recently as a day ago, I was inclined to say no. Here was my reasoning:
1) He will garner top four defenseman money in the range of 3-4.5 million (based on the fact that he was in the top 20 of ice time last season).
2) His play was inconsistent in the defensive zone, enough so that even paired next to a hall of famer he wasn't able to figure out how to help keep the puck out of his net
3) Not a great penalty killer, and with Visnovsky quarterbacking the top PP line I see him getting limited time as a 2nd PP liner
4) His skating and hockey intelligence sometimes leave something to be desired...
That said, I have been flip-flopping on this issue for the following reasons:
1) There is some indication that we might not have seen his offensive ceiling (OHL stats are pretty impressive)
2) His grit and shot are dare I say "Beauchemin-esque;" those less then 'ideally-sized' rearguards with a mean streak seem to pack a punch, literally.
5) There is something about the way he plays that makes even the casual fan get behind him. Not sure what it is yet, but he seems like a definite character and an uncanny catalyst. One of those unique players that stands out despite gaps in their fundamental game, the ability to be a game-changer.
6) Shootout Secret Weapon...
It's hard for me to admit, but he may be the best thing the ducks got post-Niedermayer on D. Its a completely different direction, but it may be that he steps up as a leader on a young blueline. Brendan Mikkelson, Luca Sbisa, Brett Festerling might be enough to get by all season along side Wiz, Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Brookbank, but I doubt Murray goes this route. Not enough physicality to keep people out of the crease with that lineup.
If you are able to sign Wiz while signing/trading for another solid D-man for this year say Paul Martin or Anton Volchenkov, you have 4 or maybe 5 quality rearguards that would be competing to emerge as the top pairing since we know Caryle loves riding his favorite workhorses the last 10 minutes of most games. This would be a stretch from a salary point of view since signing a top FA would cost the ducks who, depending on who they re-sign, might be up against their budget.
So what if you don't sign him...
As far as similar FAs out there with similar skill sets, the closest I could get was Derek Morris or Willie Mitchell (both would possibly be come cheaper than Wiz). So there is not a lot in the way of free agents of the semi-inconsistent skilled-defender/ agitator-character guy mold. However, say you sign someone like Mitchell at say 1.5 instead of Wiz, then pick up Volchenkov at 5, it would be way more affordable.
So as you can see, "there's alot of ins and outs, man." That is partial why I started thinking this out in type. From what I've read posted here, Wiz seems like a bit of polarizing player. People seem to like his guts and some of his skills, but could do without his attitude and salary. I wish i could say that I was convinced that the Ducks should go another direction, but it seems like the gap between prospects and nhlers amongst the defensemen of the ducks system has put them in a place with little bargaining leverage with Wisniewski, especially with the retirement of Scott Niedermayer. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I suspect like many of you that perhaps the one year experiment of Wiz/Niedermayer might have convinced Ducks brass that he isn't worth the larger raise.
Please feel free to pick this apart and/or add on some thoughts...