You get a professional tryout contract! And you get a professional tryout contract! I think Stan Bowman hired Oprah Winfrey as an assistant this offseason.
Just a few days after defenseman Jan Hejda and forward Daniel Paille received professional tryout contracts with the Chicago Blackhawks, another elder statesman blueliner has agreed to the same deal. Lubomir Visnovsky, most recently with the New York Islanders, will appear at Blackhawks training camp under a professional tryout contract.
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For the uninitiated, a PTO contract limits the number of games that a player can appear in at 25. After that point, the player either must be signed to a formal contract or be released.
Visnovky is 39-years-old and an unrestricted free agent after spending the previous three seasons in New York. During the 2014-15 campaign, Visnovsky played in 53 regular-season and four playoff games, tallying five goals, 17 assists and a plus-2 rating across those outings.
Visnovsky was selected in the fourth round of the 2000 draft by the Los Angeles Kings, with whom he spent parts of seven seasons. From there he moved on to Edmonton for a year and a half, then to Anaheim in a trade-deadline deal in 2010. He was in Anaheim until the conclusion of the 2011-12 season, after which he signed with the Islanders.
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He’s not a huge scorer, maxing out at 18 goals in two different seasons and having scored no more than six in each of the last four campaigns. But Visnovsky logs a ton of ice time, as last season’s average of 19:32 was the first time he was under 20 minutes since the 2002-03 season.
The main rub with Visnovsky is his ridiculous injury history. Though he’s played in the NHL since 2000, he has only once played all 82 games in a season. Just look at this page; he has six noted injuries dating pack to the 2013-14 season, and five of them are upper-body or concussion issues.
While Hejda may be the more safe option in that regard if the Blackhawks wind up choosing between him and Visnovsky for the seventh defenseman spot, Visnovsky can certainly go on the ice despite his age. The five-time All-Star was most recently chosen to that squad in the 2013 lockout season, and he received Norris Trophy votes that year as well. He could provide a steady (when healthy) and wise presence at the blue line and wouldn’t likely have to go a full 82 games with the Blackhawks, maximizing what he has left in the tank.
This would also indicate the Blackhawks would prefer to keep the likes of Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg in Rockford for at least another season apiece to get them some more conditioning. The Blackhawks aren’t exactly known for rushing players, and they seem to desire avoiding it when possible. The recent PTO signings of Hejda and now Visnovsky put that on display.
Shortly after the news about Visnovsky merging with Chicago was released, the team announced its full training camp roster. You can view it here. On the topic of defensemen, it’s interesting to note Kyle Cumiskey and Michal Rozsival will be in attendance, so really, the battle for the sixth and seventh D spots should be intense. Enough to take eyes of Patrick Kane? Probably not. But enough for us to watch closely this weekend.
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