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The Wiz, The Murph, The Saga Continues

James Wisniewski is potentially headed to arbitration after filing yesterday. Of course, he was in this same position last summer before the Ducks signed him to a one-year deal. Don't worry. Daniel and I won't roleplay the arbitration hearing like we did last year, though that's certainly worth a read if you want to hear Daniel say nice things about Wiz or if you want to experience a soupçon of the negativity that could potentially be heaped onto number 34 courtesy of yours truly.

This year, I thought we would take a look at some of the things that might be holding up a Wisniewski contract renewal. Let me spoil things for you and let you know that I come out on the side of Wisniewski, but again, it's just a look at things 'that might be' holding up a renewal. For all I know, they're haggling over whether or not the Ducks' Team Store has to carry Wiz Wear.

After filing for arbitration last summer, and both parties saying the contract negotiations were headed there, James Wisniewski signed a one-year contract with the Ducks at 2.75M. Of the many quotes he provided the press, this was perhaps the most telling:

"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." - Wisniewski in a press conference call

One-year deals are usually about a player proving something to management, and Wiz did not hide from that suggestion, freely noting that the Ducks brass wanted to see an injury-free season. Of course, the young defenseman was properly compensated for the short term deal; the Ducks tripled his salary in order to watch him 'prove himself.'

Wiz's Salary History courtesy of Hockey Zone Plus

2006-07 $532,000
2007-08 $650,000
2008-09 $900,000
2009-10 $2,750,000

From a management standpoint, I could see how signing a player with Wisniewski's injury history could be troubling. But did he finally shake the injury bug this year? Did he finally play the injury-free hockey that Murph asked for? Because if he did, you could see how Wisniewski thinks Murph is going back on his word, especially if his impression of their agreement is well-illustrated by the quote above. Here's a brief look at Wisniewski's officially reported injury history:

2006-07 KNEE - Remainder of season - 15 Games
2007-08 FACE - 3 Games KNEE - 10 Games
2008-09 KNEE SURGERY - Preseason and 28 Games CHEST - 1 Game
2009-10 SHOULDER - 3 Games

As I noted above, these are 'officially reported' injuries. As often as Wisniewski hobbles off of the ice, Bob Murray could have a laundry list from the trainer detailing the times that Wisniewski has played hurt, which combined with game film could give the impression that he shouldn't have played in that condition. But again, based on Wisniewski's quote on what stood between him and a long term deal, and based on the extensive injury history he had when he came to the Ducks, missing 3 games should qualify as 'proving himself.'

Did he also produce in that time? Was it worth it, statistically, to see him on the ice for almost a full season for the first time in his career?

2009-10 24:20 3 27
2008-09 (ANA) 20:57 1 10
2008-09 (CHI) 19:15 2 11
2007-08 17:00 7 19
2006-07 18:59 2 8

Sure. It wasn't his highest goal total or his highest point per 60 min total-- don't forget that every single one of those earlier seasons was shortened by injury --but it was a career-high in points and ice time. Now, the obvious counter-argument is that there are things that Wiz does wrong that don't show up on the stat sheet: own goals, bad decision making, one-on-one defensive errors, telegraphed offense, inability to receive or execute a D-to-D pass, etc. But that's why you have pro scouting. Wiz isn't playing any worse for us than he was in Chicago; Murray can't claim ignorance as a defense here.

If Wiz was under the impression that he could get a long term deal, perhaps a long term lucrative deal, by playing a full season with his style of play, then you could see why he's disappointed with how contract negotiations have played out. If Murray was under the impression that Wiz would not take a single minor injury and would play a thousand times better than he had in Chicago, then it's much more difficult to understand why Murray is disappointed with how negotiations have gone. Unrealistic expectations didn't pan out with Ryan Whitney, and they won't get you very far with James Wisniewski either. Murray signed the guy and gave him the impression that he could be a Top 4 defenseman here. Even if it was obvious to the rest of the world, including Wisniewski, that that was impossible, the player appears to have lived up to his end of the deal. It seems like welching to now remind him he isn't good enough for what he's asking. Hopefully, they're just arguing over Wiz Wear.