Heading into the 2015 offseason, it wasn't a sure thing that Chris Wideman would still be a part of the Senators organization. He had played extremely well in Binghamton for three seasons and won the award for best defenseman just last year. Despite playing as well as he could have last year, he never got the chance to play a game (despite being called up).
With Ottawa having eight defenseman already, there was some worry that the Senators would be losing a potentially solid asset for nothing because has was set to become a UFA. However, Ottawa was able to sign him to a one-year contract and with Eric Gryba gone and Chris Phillips seemingly dead, Wideman has been able to get some playing time this year. The only problem is that the Senators will have to figure him out once again this summer to see if he fits in their long-term plans.
At the age of 26, there isn't much room for improvement in Wideman's game. This season was going to show if he can be an NHL regular, and I think he has shown that. The Senators clearly had a hole (or two) on the second pairing to begin the year, and I think the team was hoping that Wideman could show that he could be capable of being that player. Has he been worthy of getting second pairing minutes? Not quite. However, that doesn't mean he has been bad.
Using Own The Puck Tableau Visuals, their "warrior" chart shows Wideman as a third pairing defenseman in everything except for goals per 60 and primary points per 60. When compared to Mark Borowiecki, who is seen as a "fine" bottom pairing player, it's clear that he is much better:
So the graph shown is not overly impressive. But as a third pairing defenseman, I am totally fine with what he brings, especially compared to Borowiecki, who's numbers do not look pretty at all. It may be a problem if Wideman gets top-four minutes, but considering that Dave Cameron loves Cody Ceci I would highly doubt that happens.
The fact that Wideman's two most common partners this year have been Borowiecki and Jared Cowen don't help his underlying numbers, although even without those two he hasn't been a positive possession player. Even though he hasn't been some secret weapon that Ottawa needs to use way more often (a la Patrick Wiercioch last year), he is still a perfect player on the third pairing.
If he gets a competent partner on his left side, then Wideman becomes a good defenseman on Ottawa's third pairing. He only has 7 points this year, but in limited ice time he has produced decently well, as the primary points per 60 indicates. Typically teams will have "defensive defenseman" on the last pairing like Borowiecki because they feel they need somebody safe, but in reality I think a player like Wideman is what actually works.
The Senators struggle with breaking out of their zone, and Wideman is perfectly capable of moving the puck out. If he gets to play with a similarly offensively minded partner, then Ottawa's third pairing wouldn't always be stuck in their own zone for minutes at a time.
In no way is Wideman perfect. He probably won't improve his game to play on the second pairing, but if the Senators want a defense corps that can handle other teams big guns, they need a competent 5/6 duo, which Wideman can be a part of. The team knows that he isn't going to be amazing, as it seems like every game down the stretch it will be either him or Wiercioch out as a healthy scratch (which is dumbfounding).
But I think the Senators like what he brings, and it seems that they prefer him over Wiercioch. Both of them are free agents this summer, although Wiercioch is still an RFA. It will be interesting to see what they do with those two, because I would be shocked if Wiercioch isn't moved.
As for Wideman, he certainly has a place on this team. His cap hit this year is a measly $600,000, and he won't be very costly in the summer. The Senators could offer him a two or three year deal between $1-2 million per year, which is very reasonable for both sides. Since he would be cheaper than Wiercioch, this would likely be another reason why he would be prioritized. I doubt Wideman wants to sign another one-year deal, so that probably isn't on the table. Besides that, really the only other option is to let him walk or trade him in the next two weeks before the trade deadline.
If he is traded, then Ottawa won't be getting very much for him. Perhaps it will be a mid-round pick, but nothing more than say a 3rd or a 4th. Because of the potential measly return, I would bet that Ottawa signs him for three more years. Everybody knows that he isn't an essential part of the team, but he can still help out the typically dreadful third pairing for next year.
What should Ottawa do with Chris Wideman?
|Sign him to a 2-3 year deal||154|
|Sign him to another one year deal||73|
|Let him walk||7|
|Trade him for a mid/late round pick now||13|