What are the Flames’ options during Dennis Wideman’s suspension?

When Dennis Wideman crosschecked linesman Don Henderson in the Flames’ final game before the All-Star break, it almost seemed like an afterthought that it had even happened. There was no immediate reaction to it at all. Wideman wasn’t penalized, and he wasn’t removed from the game, whether by means of game misconduct or a simple check to make sure that everything was okay upstairs.

Because players never check linesmen. Not the way Wideman did. An accidental collision is one thing; raising your stick to nail an official in the back and send him to the ice for whatever reason – if there even was one – is something else entirely, and something you aren’t going to escape punishment on.

Here’s the thing, though: we still have no idea just how long Wideman will be suspended for. His disciplinary hearing – which lasted nearly two hours – is over, but we still don’t have a concrete number of games for which he’ll be suspended.

Wideman is suspended indefinitely, so even if we don’t have a number tonight – and Chris Johnston suspects we won’t – he still won’t be in the lineup for the Flames’ return to action tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

It’s probably a good bet Wideman will get at least one game (probably more, really), so the timing of the matter doesn’t really affect the Flames – except it does, when determining how they want to handle this. Wideman will counts as a roster player during his suspension, which would leave the Flames with just six available defencemen, and possibly some complications with that.

Here’s what they can do.

Option 1

The Flames roll with a defence group of T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Kris Russell, Deryk Engelland, and Ladislav Smid (barring injury or trade) until Wideman is eligible to return. 

This is hardly an ideal scenario, but consider: it’s all but said and done that the Flames are out of the playoff race. Having Wideman absent and Engelland and Smid playing together on the bottom pairing doesn’t exactly boast the makings of a great defence, but it’s irrelevant at this point. The Flames aren’t going anywhere this season; what does it matter if their bottom defence pairing is bad? If anything, at least this means more ice time for Hamilton.

True, the Flames aren’t able to use this as an opportunity to get another player who may have a greater future with the team – whether it’s an older guy like Jakub Nakladal, or a prospect like Brett Kulak – but that’s their own fault for signing or trading for so many ill-advised contracts to begin with, and they have to make due with the grave they’ve already dug.

Option 2

The Flames demote somebody and call up a defenceman from the Stockton Heat in order to give him that chance during Wideman’s suspension.

They could waive Engelland or Smid (likely the latter, considering he’s most likely to be a healthy scratch) in hopes somebody claims them, which would solve a lot of problems outright. Considering both players’ cap hits, though, it’s highly unlikely anybody takes a flyer on either player, and so, they’d probably end up in Stockton – perhaps permanently, depending on the performance of their replacement. That would still leave the Flames with just six eligible defencemen, but it could give the team a bottom pairing option they’d be more comfortable with than if they were to run Smid – Engelland for an extended period of time.

Or, they could demote a forward. Mason Raymond is already likely on his way down to make room for Micheal Ferland. Markus Granlund – who is waiver-exempt – could be next, which would leave the Flames with 13 forwards (one healthy scratch), and allow them to carry an extra, seventh defenceman.

Option 3

The Flames trade Wideman.

This is the mythical, fairytale option, because it’s not happening. Wideman’s contract is virtually untradable. He’s a declining offensive defenceman of questionable defensive abilities who will soon be 33 years old. He still has a full season left on his deal after this one that carries a cap hit of $5.25 million.

It’s possible to trade a suspended player – remember that bizarre mid-game trade Mike Cammalleri was involved in? That was to wait for the puck to drop in Calgary, to count towards Rene Bourque’s suspension, before he was moved to Montreal – but just who wants Wideman? He couldn’t be moved even after a career season of 56 points, and it’s unlikely he ever reaches such highs ever again.

With 50% salary retained, Wideman would carry a cap hit of $2.625 million, which is easier to stomach for any team – but that assumes Wideman is a wanted commodity to begin with, as well as assuming the Flames would be comfortable paying a player to not play on their team.

In short: this suspension really isn’t ideal, but it’s something Wideman and the Flames are going to have to live with for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, this is still a team that should be looking to sell off multiple assets regardless, and if it isn’t possible for a more deserving, unheralded player to get a chance on an NHL defence, then it really doesn’t matter who’s back there the rest of this season at all.

  • ronipedia

    As a charter member of Team #TradeWideman, I would like to add that he also has a no move clause. I maintain my position, without regard to the obstacles, knowing that hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.

  • Parallex

    I was thinking about this the other day… let’s say the NHL throws the book at Wideman, 20 Games, that takes his suspension into mid-March. Bad news in regards to trading him right? But wait… the Arizona Coyotes are a playoff team and they’re a budget team. Since he doesn’t get paid while suspended it’s like they get to make a trade two weeks after the deadline and the associated payroll saving.

    That’s all the fan fiction I got today.

    Raymond and Granlund down, Kulak up to audition for the role of 2016-2017 Kris Russell Replacement.

  • Parallex

    Can anybody tell me why Treleving and Burke went with Wideman to his hearing? I’ve never heard of this before. I mean I know why Burke went, he has to be heard on every subject. But seriously this seems weird to me.

    • supra steve

      Not that weird… Conroy went to. They’re trying to throw the book at Wideman and he needs all the help he can get. The head of officiating is going to be there as well as legal council and the head of the officials union, the head of the NHLPA etc etc.
      Burke has a ton of experience with this stuff due to his former role in the NHLs front office – he also graduated from Harvard Law so really, I can’t think of another person I would RATHER have in my corner than him.

      This isn’t a normal hearing.

    • RKD

      like someone said, not an ordinary hearing….NHL Referees Association at the meeting too. Any decision made has to be well thought out..Burkie, with a prior role with the NHL Head Office as well as being a lawyer can definitely have something to add to the discussion.

      I say 10 games.

  • PrairieStew

    I disagree with notion that Wideman is untradeable because he wasn’t traded this past off season after his career year. Frankly, I doubt that the Flames tried to trade him at all for several reasons. First – the no trade clause, second – although he had a career year, even an average year from Wideman was more of a certainty than the potential contribution of any of the farm hands, third – with 2 full years left on the contract a retained salary deal not palatable for either side in a deal, and fourth – the Flames did not need the cap space this past offseason.

    Next year is a different story – I see value in the Flames moving him for a pick in a retained salary deal if they feel that they can replace his minutes and contribution for less than $2 million.

      • Rockmorton65

        Rather than make up comments like you have try making an original comment that makes sense….Treliving or any other GM in the league do not make such ridiculous statements about their players!

    • Ari Yanover

      … What Rockmorton65 said. They were definitely trying to trade him. Whether they couldn’t because of his NMC, there were no takers, or the offers weren’t good enough is unknown, but they were trying.

      • PrairieStew

        Ok – if you say so, I missed that, but rarely do GM’s really say for sure who they are trying to deal; seems like a bad precedent to set. Regardless, I think we can agree he would be more difficult to move @$5.25 for 2 years than for one year @ half that. For all his warts, to begin the season, the Flames had a better chance of making the playoffs with him in the lineup than with replacing him with any of the current prospects on the farm. He’s still an NHL defenseman – none of those other guys have proven that they are.

      • Kevin R

        Speculation & who knows what the asking price was back then. I’m sure the conversation is a lot different today than what it was back then. The Boston rumour was talking a multi player trade as well, so there could be a real different spin to a trade to the Bruins & I’m sure Subban was in the convo. Acquire in a package saves us from having to draft a goalie.

  • RKD

    Too bad we could not move Wides, yes his contract is terrible but if we ate half of his salary then I think some GMs would be willing to digest Wides at 2.625 instead of 5.25. Personally, they need to do whatever it takes to make Kulak a regular. Kulak looks like a NHL everyday d-man, I didn’t have any issues with him and I think he is ahead of Wotherspoon. I wouldn’t mind seeing Nakladal get his shot too.

  • RKD

    The article says he will get at least 1 game… Doesn’t a hearing mean he gets at least 5 games? I could be 100% wrong, but I thought how far it’s gone in the process ensures 5 games..

    I’m watching the Coilers/jackets game. Wow. Just wow… I laugh and loathe the crew up north as much as everyone but wow. That kid is sick good… I have no words.