Just as the Flames may have some trade targets in their sites this off-season, the club may well have some players they want to auction off as well. I personally identified Dennis Wideman as a good trade candidate in my recent look at the Flames cap situation over the next three years owing to his price tag, age and likelihood to fall back down to earth moving forward.
At the time of writing, Dennis Wideman was the runaway favourite in the FN poll as a trade candidate as well. The question remains, should the Flames even trade Wideman and are there any teams who could potentially be interested?
A Good Bet
Against long odds, Dennis Wideman had himself a career season this year. Although his possession stats remain very mediocre, the 32-year old nevertheless saw the puck go in for him at the best rate he’s ever seen, both personally (SH% 8.7) and while he was one the ice at even strength (10.05%).
Wideman also logged a lot of time against top players after Mark Giordano went down to injury. And while he and partner Kris Russell weren’t quite as capable as the Flames captain and TJ Brodie, they managed to stay above water thanks to their high scoring numbers and penchant for blocking shots.
These results suggest Wideman is closer to a core player rather than expendable, but the truth is he is a poor candidate to maintain that level of play moving forward. Wideman is still a capable offensive defender with a big shot and good instincts, but his foot speed is becoming ever more questionable each year and he is prone to defensive lapses. Ideally, Wideman should be deployed against lesser players in a PP specialist type role. This is likely to be more and more true the older he gets.
As such, Wideman’s value as a trade chip will probably never be higher than it is right now. With that in mind combined with a looming cap crunch in two years time suggests the club should at least consider testing the trade waters.
Of course, Wideman’s contract of $5.25M/year over the next two years is a challenge for many teams in the NHL to absorb. That may limit the pool of suitors and therefore demand.
On the other hand, defenders are almost always of interest in the off-season and Wideman’s offensive output may be hard to ignore for some clubs looking for some punch from the back-end.
Here are 6 teams who might be the most interested in acquiring Wideman’s services:
1.) Arizona Coyotes
With only about $35M committed to next season and just three defenders signed, the Coyotes are in dire need of both cap dollars and established defensive talent. Their current depth chart features OE Larsson and then a bunch of kids including Michael Stone, Klas Dahlback, Connor Murphy, John Moore and Brandon Gormley.
On top of all that, the rebuilding Coyotes won’t exactly be the first choice for most of the league’s key free agents. I’m sure there are clubs who will line-up to “help” Phoenix to get to the cap floor with some salary dumps, but Wideman is actually a player who could help Arizona both on the ice and on the budget sheet.
2.) Buffalo Sabres
The tank is over in Buffalo. Now they have the unenviable task of building the team back up. The Sabres have the third cheapest roster heading into the off-season ($45.5M), but they also have a well heeled owner thirsty for success and a line-up filled to the brim with kids.
On the blueline, the Sabres currently only have five guys signed with Josh Gorges acting as the elder statesman at 30. Nobody left on the Buffalo back-end is much of a scorer with the exit of Ehrhoff and Myers the last couple of years.
Like with the Coyotes, Wideman would be a guy who could help the Sabres get past the salary floor while adding a veteran PP performer to a young line-up.
3.) New Jersey Devils
It’s probable that the Devils on the precipice of their own rebuild given how completely they collapsed last season.
That said, New Jersey has a powerful need for more NHL defensemen. Currently, they only have Andy Greene, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson inked for next season, with RFA’s Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas needing to be re-signed. Of those five players, only Greene is an established, NHL veteran.
The Devils may eschew any big, expensive acquisitions this year in anticipation of a losing season, but if they are looking to be competitive, Dennis Wideman would represent a decent option for them.
4.) Pittsburgh Penguins
Here’s Pittsburgh’s blueline depth chart right now:
- Kris Letang
- Olli Maata
- Rob Scuderi
- Ben Lovejoy
- Derrick Pouliot
Yeesh. Of that group, only Letang makes more than $3M per year.
Maybe Pittsburgh manages to retain or replace UFA’s Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff. If not, they’ll need to shore up that roster.
5.) Detroit Red Wings
The Wings have some money to spend ($56.8M committed), though they already have six NHL defenders signed, plus pending RFA Brendan Smith.
However, there’s a big gap between Nik Kronwall and the rest of the Detroit crew (Jon Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff). As a result, only Kronwall (44) and DeKeyser (31) scored more than 30 points from the back-end for the Wings last year. The next best total? 18 by Quincey.
So while Detroit doesn’t really need another body on the blueline, Dennis Wideman could likely slide right into the middle of the rotation and add a much need weapon on the PP for one of the more punchless defense corps in the league.
6.) Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Faulk is a man alone on an island in Carolina. He’s one of only two defenders making more than $3.5M on their back-end and the other guy is 34-year old JM Liles. The Hurricanes only have four defensemen signed for next season and aren’t going to be a destination of choice for most free agents.
It’s a fairly thin free agent crop when it comes to the blue liners this season and, clearly, there are teams with big needs on the back-end. If Calgary chooses to make Wideman available, there seems to be at least a half dozen clubs who could have interest.
Of course, Calgary’s willingness to trade Wideman may also come down to their ability to acquire additional depth themselves. Without adding at least one (if not two) top-4 options to the rotation, Calgary couldn’t really afford to lose Wideman given the tenuous state of their own blueline.