James Wisniewski was in camp with the Tampa Bay Lightning this preseason trying to make their roster on a professional tryout contract.
On Sunday, that tryout came to an end when he was among the 24 cuts made by the team as they continue to trim down their roster in preparation for the upcoming season.
The biggest factor in the decision to cut him seems to be the fact the Lightning couldn’t wait for him to get back up to speed and adjust to their aggressive system that relies on defensemen to jump into the play offensively. Especially as he is coming off of a torn ACL that robbed him of all but 47 seconds of the 2015-16 season.
Here is what Lightning coach Jon Cooper said about Wisniewski and the decision to cut him on Monday, via Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Tribune.
“He’s a good pro, and you can tell the way he thinks the game and the skills he possesses, is why he’s been a good pro in this league,” Cooper said. “For him, he’s had some major injuries to both of his knees, and he slowed down a little bit. And we weren’t unfortunately in a situation where we could wait.”
Along with that, there was also the fact that the Lightning probably didn’t have the salary cap space to add him into the mix. They still have to sign restricted free agent forward Nikita Kucherov and only have around $5.5 million to work with. Kucherov’s deal, when completed, will not only take up all of that remaining cap space, but they will probably need to create more.
The next thing for Wisniewski is finding an opportunity to catch in with another team, and you have to think at some point that he should be able to do just that.
Before his 2015-16 season came to an end on his first shift, he was still a productive NHL defensemen that was good enough to be a regular in the lineup.
There is no doubt being another year older into his 30s and coming off of another major knee injury is going to slow him down a bit, but he still knows what to do on the ice, even if it is in a third-pairing role. There is probably going to come a point over the next week, or even early into the regular season, where somebody is going to have one of their defenseman go down with an injury and they could certainly do worse than giving Wisniewski a call to fill a spot on the back end of their defense.
It didn’t work for him in Tampa Bay for a number of reasons (not a great fit for the style, salary cap) but he should still probably have something left to offer somebody this season.