Wideman cut loose by Sabres

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 2:46 PM ET


 He was runner-up as the best defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League. He was a second-team Canadian Hockey League all-star. He was the driving force behind the London Knights' record-setting regular season.

 Today he's looking for a place to play.

 Anyone who has watched Dennis Wideman play for the Knights will no doubt find it difficult to believe the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him two years ago in the eighth round, don't want to find a spot for him in their organization.

 Yet that's what happened yesterday. The deadline came and went for National Hockey League teams to sign their 2002 drafts who are not currently playing in Europe or at a U.S. college. Since the Sabres and Wideman failed to come to some contractual arrangement, Wideman became a free agent and will be able to sign with whatever team wants him.

 The Sabres also opted not to sign their third-round pick of that year, Michael Tessier. Tessier played with the Quebec league's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles this season.

 "It's over with Buffalo," said Wideman from his home in Elmira. "They gave me an offer . . . it just wasn't where we were at. It wasn't in the same league.

 "I think it would be better for me as a free agent. They spent a lot of money on Paille and I guess they didn't have a lot left.

 "I'm just going to wait for the teams to call. My agent will fax the teams (yesterday) and we'll wait to hear from them."

 Paille is Daniel Paille of the Guelph Storm. He was the Sabres' first pick in the 2002 draft, the 20th player selected overall. He was also the captain of last year's national junior team, which won a silver medal at the world championship.

 The Sabres signed Paille to a three-year deal.

 As for Wideman, after the Knights were eliminated from the playoffs, he signed with the American Hockey League Rochester Americans, the Sabres' AHL affiliate. He did not appear in any playoff games for the Americans.

 Despite the fact he has no team to play for yet, Wideman didn't seem particularly stressed about the Sabres not signing him. He believes he'll get ample opportunity to ply his trade professionally.

 "I don't know why it didn't work out," he said. "Maybe they just didn't have the money to spend and they didn't want to spend it in that area.

 "I loved Rochester though. I liked all the guys. It . . . would have loved to have played there. But that's the way it works, I guess.

 "I never got the idea (Buffalo) had much interest in signing me . . . which is fine. It happens all the time in this business."

 Wideman wasn't the only well-known player who wasn't signed by the NHL team that drafted him.

 Tim Brent, an assistant captain with the national junior team and captain of the St. Michael's Majors, will re-enter the NHL draft June 26 after the Anaheim Mighty Ducks failed to sign him.

 Brent was taken 37th overall by the Ducks in 2002.

 All this might mean professional teams are being a little more careful with how and on whom they spend their money.

 It might also be related to what might be a long labour dispute between NHL owners and players.

 Wideman's offensive abilities are exceptional and he has significantly improved his defensive game. While he may not make the NHL, there's little doubt he should make a comfortable living as a professional hockey player.

 "My agent doesn't think the lockout will affect me," Wideman said. "No matter what happens in the NHL, (minor leagues) still need guys to play next year. I'm going to get a personal trainer and work out at home. I'll be all right."

 No question he'll land somewhere, the only question is when and where.


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