Why Dennis Wideman is still a Flame (for now)

The National Hockey League’s buyout window has now officially closed and despite public pleading from many on social media, and some pleading from this very site, Dennis Wideman will remain a member of the Calgary Flames.

Well, for now, at least.

The 33-year-old right-shooting blueliner had a rough year last season, missing time due to a tricep tear and as part of a still-ongoing saga following a late February collision with linesman Don Henderson, and playing at a much lower level than in previous seasons when healthy. Why, oh why, would the Flames hold onto Wideman? Here’s what we came up with.

The kids aren’t ready yet

The Flames have quietly accumulated a bunch of young blueliners on their farm team, including Oliver Kylington, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon (who all saw NHL action last year) and Ryan Culkin (who didn’t), and they’re soon to be joined by OHL standout Rasmus Andersson and WHL behemoth Keegan Kanzig. But Kylington, Wotherspoon and Kulak arguably haven’t done enough to force management’s hand. I mean, they’re all solid AHLers and have shown fairly well in the NHL, but compare their performance to Brodie’s “kicking the door down” when he was on an entry-level deal.

As we’ve seen in Detroit, there’s really no downside to letting your kids over-ripen a bit.

(And if your kids aren’t ready yet, you’ll have to go out into the free agent or trade markets and try to grab a comparable replacement… which won’t be cheap.)

He could be useful on the power-play

Wideman was acquired by Jay Feaster many moons ago because the hope was that he would be able to produce on the power-play. Say what you will about his even strength play – he’s a third pairing guy at best – but he was pretty dangerous with the extra man two seasons ago (and could be again if the Flames can get the right associate coach to kickstart their special teams).

The Gulutzan connection

In his introductory press conference, new Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan mentioned three current Flames that he was familiar with from his time coaching in Las Vegas (and attending Flames development camps): Deryk Engelland, Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman. Not only does having pre-existing relationships with three of the team’s veterans help Gulutzan transition into his new role, but perhaps the feeling is that his prior connection with Wideman can help turn his game around. (In other words, sending a message to the marketplace of “Hey, Wideman’s not awful, Hartley just wasn’t using him well.”)

The Fletcher principle: never sell low

Brad Treliving is very much a student of the game. One of the major reasons that original Flames GM Cliff Fletcher is in the Hockey Hall of Fame is because he was really good at maximizing asset values and making trades at the right time. One thing Fletcher almost never did was make a move while his club was struggling, and he tried to never sell low on a player because you’d never get good value doing so.

After the season he just had, Wideman’s value has nowhere to go but up. Why not hold onto him for a little bit and see if something can happen? (Particularly since Wideman’s cap hit will shrink by $29,000 for every day in the regular season and moving him at the trade deadline would require just $1.17 million in cap space.) The Flames can probably get something of value for him at the deadline, rather than cashing out now and getting nothing.

A buyout is really, really expensive

The Flames’ owners are primarily oil barons. That’s important in two respects; first, the oil price is way down and they probably don’t want to spend money that they don’t need to. Second, they are really cost-conscious and didn’t get rich by spending a ton of their own money – usually oil deals are complex animals that involve partnering up and sharing risk, often involving justifying complex business cases to other partners.

A buyout for Wideman is literally management handing him $4 million to not play for the team anymore, and then having cap hits of $1.25 million in 2016-17 and $2 million in 2017-18. Unless the team is completely convinced that he cannot be an NHL player anymore and that he’s going to be dead money on the cap anyway, selling a buyout to ownership is going to be really tough to justify from a business perspective.

    • BurningSensation

      Agreed.

      Get him playing, give him gobs of PP time, inflate his stats, and wait for someone (cough*Edm*cough) desperate for a RH defender to pony up.

      Classic pump-n-dump

        • Colin.S

          I’d imagine this is the case, I mean the Oilers just gave up a former first overall and one of the best PPG players since he was drafted for a guy who MIGHT be a top pairing defencemen (well on the Oilers he will be). It could be conceivable that there are offers out there, probably not great ones, and the flames can probably move him without having to buy him out, but will 100% have to be eating some salary.

  • Bananaberg

    Agree with Scorpion above and what many have said on this site before: Wideman isn’t a buyout candidate and shouldn’t be. He has trade value, even if we don’t receive much back. Simply ridding the team of his $5.25 cap hit is worth quite a bit on our end, and with so many teams out there hunting for defensemen, he’s a “cheaper”, proven, RH shooting PP option if CGY offers to retain some salary and make it worthwhile. At full price, we should expect to receive some less than optimal salary back in return anyways.

    The article makes some good points though. Yes, keeping Wideman exposes CGY to possible value upside if he bounces back with Gulutzan and 2nd PP unit time. I just think it makes more sense to ditch his contract and bring in a Top 9 winger to improve the team overall for the start of the season.

    I also think it’s been very difficult to get many teams interested in talking about him in a deal lately with all the talk about Vatanen/Lindholm/Trouba/Shattenkirk/Barrie/etc out in the market. When some of those chips start falling, we can expect some teams that miss out to start calling.

  • DangleSnipeCelly

    Ugh, spare me the oil baron sob story… Murray Edwards is one of the richest men in Canada. I’m sure the price of oil is not factoring in on whether or not Wideman is bought out.

    • wot96

      Rich people don’t get rich by minding their millions, they get rich by minding their pennies.

      and because I started in reverse order:

      4. Agreed – don’t sell low. See how he handles the game and officials once he’s back on the ice. His price won’t get lower but it might get better.

      3. Sure. Maybe GG is the answer. Where’s the eye roll emoji when you need it?

      2. He could be useful on the powerplay, but that probably means the Flames haven’t signed Nakladal and hopefully it doesn’t mean he gets icetime ahead of Dougie – which would be Hartley like in its ability to puzzle.

      1. Maybe the kids weren’t ready but there’s an offseason of training, video and maturation to help them along. And if they still aren’t ready – fine.

      OR THE BONUS ANSWER – Wideman still has to agree to go and maybe he hasn’t been asked, or maybe he hasn’t agreed.

        • wot96

          He was the hardest working guy at the law firm, the smartest guy in the room (usually), the guy that left no stone unturned in the relentless pursuit of his goals. Wasting money isn’t in his DNA.

      • RedMan

        I think the fact that the US has narrowed the field to Trump and H. Clinton as the TOP candidates for president means American’s have no right to make political jabs at others until they get their own sh*t together. 😉

  • McRib

    Flames just announced development camp rosters, a very notable Free Agent invite is Lethbridge’s Brayden Burke. How does someone who scored 109 Points in only his second WHL season get completely passed over in the draft? Absolutely baffling (Ranked 78th by Red Line Report). 74% of his primary points came even strength (including 23 of 27 Goals). It’s been a long while since the Flames have invited such a legitimate talent to Development Camp.

    Please Mr. Treliving, sign him to an entry level deal this summer. Kid could be another Tyler Johnson, no need for this organization to let another gem slip through our hands.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Dennis Wideman is what Wideman is.
    Look at his stats . 2 years ago he had a career year along with every other Flame.He is not your 56 point guy he is and has always been a 30-35 point guy in the NHL. Nothing more nothing less and he makes 6 million a year.
    That’s why he is still a Flame.

  • Backburner

    It’s no secret that the Flames have been shopping Wideman for the last year… my guess is that they are waiting to sign Gaudreau and Monahan before they decide to buy him out (if they can’t trade him).

  • RKD

    The kids are ready, even though we got a very small sample. Kulak was absolutely fine in his role, no high risk plays, no high number of turnovers, he looked very steady. He could be an everyday NHLer. There was a trade in place before Widedog knocked over an official and got suspended. Some team will need his right-handed shot on the pp but probably at half the salary.