On Tuesday night, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was scratched. It was the eighth game that Wideman has missed this season, which naturally led people to believe that he missed that game for the same reason he missed the other seven: performance.
But Flames TV host Ryan Leslie mentioned something on the Sportsnet broadcast (and later tweeted about it) that made many people furrow their brows in thought.
As mentioned on @Sportsnet Wideman out 2nite not just performance based. A few teams interested in him. Has a NMC. stay tuned.
— Ryan Leslie (@ryanleslie73) February 22, 2017
Presuming that Leslie is correct – and he’s around the team virtually every day and travels with them, so he’s in a position to pick up that kind of information – where might Wideman end up? Which teams may have a need for what Wideman brings to the table and the ability to fit him into their plans?
What is Wideman?
Let’s start with the simple things. Wideman is 33. He’s a right-shot defender who’s primarily played on Calgary’s second and third pairings this season and is, to be charitable, probably a third pairing defender at this point of his career. His defensive game isn’t amazing, particularly since he seems to have lost a bit of foot speed in the last two seasons. However, he might be useful to another team for the same reasons the Flames originally acquired him: the guy has a cannon from the point and is a pretty underrated passer when he has the puck.
He needs some sheltering, either with a lot of offensive zone starts or with a partner that can make up for his defensive issues, but he can still probably help a team that desires a bit of offensive punch from the blueline. He’s got experience on his side, too: 800+ regular season games plus five trips to the playoffs.
Here’s what I looked at to find homes for Wideman.
Cap space: Wideman has a cap hit of $5.25 million this season. If you pro-rate that to the final 40 days of the season (e.g., from the trade deadline to the end of the line) his cap hit is $1.17 million. The Flames could retain up to half of that, so potentially his cost to the acquiring team could be as low as $583,000. Granted, the Flames would probably love to retain none of his deal… but they’d also probably love to get something back for him, too. (We’ll ignore this for the most part since most teams in the NHL have cap space remaining or would be able to send some cap commitments to Calgary to make any deal work.)
A playoff team: Wideman has a no-move clause on his contract, so he can nix any deal he doesn’t like. He probably wants to play, but he also probably wants to be on a good team. Let’s assume anywhere he goes will have to be a definite playoff team.
Ideally in the east: The Flames probably don’t want to trade Wideman to a team they’ll potentially face in the playoffs. According to The Hockey News, the virtual locks for Eastern playoff spots are Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, the NY Rangers and Montreal.
The Rangers: Their power play has converted on just 11.1% of their opportunities, dead last in the East since the calendar turned over. As a result a team that’s pretty stacked otherwise has slogged along and eked by at times. Wideman could help their special teams but is probably a downgrade on current third pairing defender Kevin Klein.
The Blue Jackets: Columbus has been slightly better than the Rangers on the PP, but just barely. They’re converting opportunities at a 13.3% pace since 2017 began. That said, it could be argued that current third pairing defender Markus Nutivaara is a better even strength player than Wideman.
The Penguins: Besieged by injuries to their blueline that has left them temporarily without Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley, the Pens are seeing their depth tested. While their power play is still purring along nicely, they could probably use somebody who would be an upgrade over Chad Ruhwedel on their third pairing.
In other words
If Wideman’s leaving town, he’s almost definitely going to a playoff team in the East that has need of his experience and booming shot on the power play. Most likely if he heads elsewhere, he’ll be headed to New York, Columbus or Pittsburgh.