NHL Free Agency is just four short days away, and the list of desirable free agents is a little length-challenged itself. Today we'll take a look at Dennis Wideman, currently a Washington Capital. He and his 46 points are expected to test free agent waters come Sunday (along with his -8 rating).
The Stars currently have Stephane Robidas, Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley under contract on defense for next season. That's it. Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen have RFA situations that will work themselves out and Adam Pardy technically has a deal, but the shape and makeup of the blue line is very much in the air as July 1 approaches.
Dennis Wideman will be one of the bridesmaids in the Ryan Suter derby Sunday afternoon along with Matt Carle, Jason Garrison and perhaps a couple of others. He's just 29 years old - A little old for what Joe Nieuwendyk is trying to do, perhaps, but he's in the prime of his career. He's 6-0, 200 lbs, so he brings decent size to the party.
He's had a rocky road since breaking out with the Boston Bruins in 2008. They gave him a four-year extension worth about $4 million per season but traded him to the Panthers, who in turn traded him to the Caps. After starting his career with the Blues in 2005, he's a seemingly talented d-man looking for his 5th team and he hasn't even turned 30 yet.
He's useful enough on the power play, putting up about 20 points on the man advantage in each of the last two seasons and a career best 25 power play points with Boston in the 2008-2009 season. To give you an idea of what 20-25 points on the power play from a defenseman looks like: Sheldon Souray had 6 last year. Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas each had 9. That was pretty much it as far as defensemen went on the job. Wideman's 20 power play points ranked 10th among all defensemen last season.
Wideman's 46 points overall tied Ryan Suter last season for most among d-men turning UFA this summer, but their games and kinds of minutes played aren't exactly similar.
Josh covered this in his excellent post "2012 NHL Free Agency: Should The Dallas Stars Target Ryan Suter?" here. Among the most desirable free agents on defense Wideman ranked last in the quality of his competition, though he did not receive entirely favorable zone starts. Nevertheless, it seems the Capitals did not trust him with tough minutes, and even with that protection he suffered a -8 rating on the season.
Compared to the likes of Suter, Jason Garrison and Matt Carle Wideman doesn't seem like the safest bet where possession metrics are concerned. 46 points from a defenseman is nothing to sneeze in the NHL, but a minus rating combined with sheltered minutes and impressive offensive totals could be a red flag.
Can the Stars afford to incorporate what could be a defensive liability when they just let one go in Mike Ribeiro? With Goligoski, Larsen and Daley already on the roster we have to think that Wideman may not be a good fit for this current mix, even if he may do what they're intending (offensively, at least) a little better. He could bring help to the power play but without also acquiring a strong defensive blue-liner a stand alone addition of Wideman may not work for the group as a whole.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Washington is able to get him to stay. They have what seems like a strong enough core, even if it's not yet one to rival the Penguins', Bruins and Rangers of the world. It's still a desirable situation and they've shown a willingness to use him the way he needs to be - With sheltered minutes, putting him in best position to succeed offensively.
"Obviously, I like it here," he told media in May. "I've had a lot of fun here in the last year. I like where we're going, the core group of guys is really, really good. So why not? I'd love to be back."
As of right now it seems there are no heavy negotiations between the Capitals and Wideman. His point totals should attract interest from a dozen teams on July 1, despite the question marks about his defensive game.
Should the Stars pursue Wideman?