June 28, 2012
Wideman's arrival a long time coming
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Dennis Wideman's NHL career was on track to start in Calgary way back in 2004. Those plans finally came to fruition.
After the defenceman wasn't able to come to terms with the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him two years earlier, Wideman attended a prospects camp in Calgary in the summer following the club's run to the Stanley Cup final.
In fact, he was in the Stampede City when the St. Louis Blues signed him to a contract.
"It was awkward," Wideman recalled. "I called my agent on a pay phone and he told me we had agreed to a contract with St. Louis. I said, 'Well, what do I do now? I've got a fitness test in an hour.'
"I got out of that," he added with a laugh.
Eight years later, Wideman is finally in the Flames' fold, having been acquired Wednesday from the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round draft choice in 2013 and the rights to pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman Jordan Henry, and signed to a five-year, US$26.25 million contract.
"When I was there during the camp, I liked the city," Wideman said. "When I would play games in Calgary, I thought I would have liked to play there.
"It's funny to think we're here now."
Wideman, who collected 11 goals and 46 points last season for the Capitals, could have become an unrestricted free-agent on Canada Day.
But the blueliner, who is to be married next Friday, decided to sign with Calgary after having been able to negotiate with the Flames and a few other teams.
"From talking to them and their excitement of having me come there, I felt it was a good fit," Wideman said. "I think it's a good fit and I'm excited to help the team get back into playoffs."
A good fit how?
"I like country music," he replied. "It's a great hockey town. From talking with my agent, and talking to them about the style of game they want to play with Bob Hartley as a coach, it fits the way I play. I think it'll be a good opportunity."
The 29-year-old blueliner from Kitchener, Ont., has played 535 NHL games for the Blues, the Boston Bruins, the Florida Panthers and the Capitals.
Right now, the Flames have a defence corps of Wideman, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Anton Babchuk, Chris Butler, Derek Smith and T.J. Brodie, whose combined salary-cap hit is $21.217 million.
The NHL's salary cap is reportedly set to be $70.2 million.
Therefore, speculation about a Bouwmeester trade has increased.
Feaster said it's not necessary.
"We're not in a position where we need to trade anything. We're always in a position where we'll look to improve our hockey team," Feaster said. "The good part is we all know the cap is going up. We have enough contracts expiring on their own and we have enough space and with our budget, we don't have to move salary out. Obviously, we're going to keep an eye on what happens with the new collective bargaining negotiations, what kind of a re-set there may be on the cap.
"But we like the idea that our first four as we see it right now -- Giordano, Wideman, Bouwmeester, Butler. It's not a bad first four."
COMEAU RE-UPS FOR LESS
The option to wait for July 1st was there for Blake Comeau.
Having not received a qualifying offer because the Calgary Flames didn't want to give him another contract worth US$2.5 million, Comeau could have become an unrestricted free-agent.
It certainly would have been his right.
Instead, the 26-year-old left winger inked a one-year pact worth $1.25 million Wednesday.
"That never really crossed my mind. I knew I wanted to come back to Calgary," ," Comeau said from his off-season home in Kelowna. "We have a lot of great players and good guys in the locker room, and I think we're just a few pieces short of doing something special.
"I want to be a part of that."
After scoring 24 goals for the New York Islanders in the 2010-11 season, Comeau's game fell to pieces last year. He was placed on waivers by the Islanders in November, claimed by the Flames and managed just five goals and 15 points.
The sting of those struggles is driving him this summer.
"For sure it is," Comeau said. "Not only the personal statistics, but I feel I bring more to the team to help win games and help us get into the playoffs.
"I can bring more to the game than just scoring goals, penalty killing and physical hockey, but I want to show Calgary I can pitch in offensively."
Flames GM Jay Feaster said Comeau was signed not with the expectations he'll return to those loftier offensive numbers -- although the team would happily take it -- but because of the potential of a complete game.
"We aren't bringing him back saying, 'He has to score 20 goals for us.' " Feaster said. "We think he can be more productive, but for us to get him at that number is a good deal. We talked to him about a two-year deal, and to his credit he said, 'I'm better than what I showed. I'll take a one-year deal and prove the 24 (goals) wasn't a fluke.'
"That's not the expectation here, but I love it when a player puts that on himself."
The key will be learning from what went wrong, which Comeau said started when he was waived by the Islanders.
"It was a humbling experience. It took away some of my confidence and I don't think I recovered like I should have," he said. "I was lucky to be picked up by Calgary and have a good opportunity and it was frustrating ... I didn't produce like I'd like to.
"I've got to chalk it up as a bump in the road and move forward."