WASHINGTON, DC — Washington Capitals GM George McPhee didn't negotiate a new contract with unrestricted free agent defenseman Dennis Wideman.
"I didn't want to mislead a player. When it got right down to it, I didn't think we were going to be able to sign him," said McPhee, who cited economics and the emergence of young defensemen for the Capitals as factors.
So he told Wideman the Capitals would be moving on; and after Washington did a trade-and-sign deal with Tomas Vokoun and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wideman and his agents decided they wanted to do the same thing, avoiding the open market of free agency on July 1.
On Wednesday, the Calgary Flames traded a fifth-round pick in 2013 and RFA defenseman Jordan Henry to the Capitals for Wideman, and then signed the puck-moving defenseman to a 5-year, $26.25-million contract. That's an average annual value of $5,250,000.
(UPDATE: Pat Steinberg of the FAN 960 in Calgary reports that Wideman's contract also includes a full no-movement clause. Wideman is now the 10th player on the Flames roster who has either a no-trade or no-movement clause in their contract.)
That sound you just heard was Jason Garrison and Ryan Suter popping champagne.
McPhee said the Flames reached out before the draft, and would have given up a fifth-round pick last weekend had they inked Wideman. Instead, they traded a fifth and the rights to Henry for the right to sign Wideman after the draft and before the free-agent frenzy.
Wideman had 11 goals along with a team high 35 assists for 46 points in 82 games. He filled Mike Green's role on the Capitals when Green was injured. He moves the puck well, but can be a liability in his own end. From Japers' Rink's end of season evaluation:
The Bad: As productive as he was offensively,there were times when Wideman appeared to be something of a liability in his own end... which is kind of the opposite of what you're going for at that position. His minus-8 rating was second-worst rating among Caps defensemen, a rating which at times reflected his poor - and sometimes downright head-scratching - decision-making with the puck. By the end of the season he had been on for 86 goals-against, second-most on the team behind only John Carlson, almost a third of the team's total goals-against for the season. At even strength, Wideman finished with the team's second-highest GAON/60 (and the highest in the playoffs).
Wideman turned into something of a scapegoat during the postseason - particularly in the first round - as he seemed destined to be on the ice whenever that big, heartbreaking goal was scored on the Caps. He finished the fourteen game run having been on for 13 goals-against, including eight in that catastrophic first series alone (when the team only gave up 15 total), and was a team-worst minus-7.
Does Wideman improve the Flames' blueline? Yes, based on the current personnel.
Will he frustrate the hell out of Calgary Flames with his occasional lapses? Yes.
Is he overpaid? Totally. But only based on what he was previously making and what the market dictates, maybe it makes a little sense. Maybe another coach cracks the code on Wideman, who was atrocious in the playoffs. Or maybe he'll be seen as a liability making too much coin. And lord knows salary never affects perception, right Jay Bouwmeester?
And five years of Dennis Wideman could lead to a therapist's couch. Good thing, as of now, there's not a no-trade clause listed for him.