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.