Segue Issue 22-09
June 8, 2022
On Monday morning the Montreal Canadiens announced a contract extension, signing Chris Wideman to a two-year deal with an AAV of $762,500.
Darren Dreger commented on the deal on The Morning Show on TSN690 with Simon Tsalikis and Dave Trentadue. Trentadue began by asking Dregs if he thought it was “telling” that Wideman signed so early without testing the market and what it would mean for defence prospects vying for spots come training camp. Dreger stated, “There will be spots available – you know this – and the work is just starting for Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens.”
Dreger said he wasn’t surprised by the deal and gave credit to Wideman and to the Canadiens for getting the deal done early rather than delay and deal with the uncertainty of free agency throughout the summer.
You can listen to the entire hit here – the discussion about Wideman picks up at around the 12:50 mark.
Using that hit as a segue, here are my five reasons why the Chris Wideman contract is perfect for the Habs.
Wideman had four goals and 23 assists in 64 games for the Habs last season, while averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time per game and earning $750K. Is there a better value contract anywhere that isn’t entry level? Wideman proved he can still produce points at the NHL level, and the contract extension confirms that Hughes is expecting he can continue to do so on a value deal.
Whether ideal or not, Wideman is still the best option in Montreal to quarterback the power play. Perhaps Justin Barron claims that role for the top unit this season. Or maybe HuGo has a plan to upgrade through trade or free agency. As of now, Wideman still fills a hole, and that hole may actually get bigger when Jeff Petry is dealt. It never hurts to have that skill set in a depth defenceman, even if prospect progress means he is not your first choice for the role.
As Dreger said, “Wideman was a nice fit, as we could see.” All season we heard him say he knew he was playing for his career, and that he could be paying to pay – yes, he meant beer league – next year. He knows who he is. He knows the team is in a rebuild and the kids will be prioritized. He knows he will not be immune to the healthy scratch. Knowing those things, he will still go out and play hard every night. He will be the first, and perhaps the smallest guy in the scrum after the whistle has gone. He will take his turn facing the media. A low-maintenance, self-aware veteran is solid gold during a rebuild.
Dreger noted that Wideman is probably ready to fit into a mentoring role. Kent Hughes has been relatively definitive in his plan for the defence group. He said he does not see icing three rookie defencemen next season, and that “maybe” Alexander Romanov could be considered part of the veteran group. The implication is that it is unlikely that we see any combination of Jordan Harris, Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle, or Mattias Norlinder making up more than two members of the defence group on a given night.
Hughes said he wants to use Laval as a developmental option, giving the prospects opportunities to move between the NHL and AHL to work on specific areas of their game. That plan necessitates having a veteran presence around to support the volume of young D-men that will be part of the Habs group in the immediate future.
Now indulge me with some dreaming. Suppose the trade deadline rolls around and the Habs are poised to be sellers again. Suppose Guhle has demonstrated he will be ready for a full-time NHL gig in 2023-24. Suppose someone comes with an offer for Joel Edmundson that you can’t refuse. Having that extra veteran around makes that decision a little easier.
Dreger said that Wideman knows he will have to compete and prove he can continue to be the player he was for the Habs this past year. Well, of course he knows this. You don’t sign a near league minimum contract if you think your top-4 spot is a done deal.
Trentadue doesn’t need to worry about spots being taken away from the kids. When the defence prospects are ready to claim a spot, it won’t be Chris Wideman holding them up. He is there as a placeholder – he will fill a role until the future claims their place in the present. When that happens, HuGo won’t hesitate to trade Wideman, or waive him if necessary.
Some have taken this signing to mean the Habs are launching into a lengthy rebuild. In what world did you think whatever HuGo is doing – whether it’s a rebuild or a reset or a reno – would take less than two years? This is hardly a revelation.
Chris Wideman’s contract is a perfect fit for the Habs. If the rest of the moves we see this summer come off as cleanly, we might be lucky enough that the bulk of the rebuild is possible in just two years.