Over the past month, we’ve heard Peter Chiarelli say on multiple occasions that the group of defenders that the Edmonton Oilers have simply don’t move the puck well enough. Today, he made a move to address that, acquiring Chris Wideman from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 6th round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
A small price to pay, especially considering that the Oilers got that 2020 6th rounder from St. Louis for Jakub Jerabek earlier this season.
The deal is done, so what exactly are the Oilers getting in Chris Wideman?
He’s a 28-year-old right-handed defenseman who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators and has spent his entire career with that organization. He had a pair of really strong seasons in the AHL between 2013 and 2015 where he posted 112 points in 148 games. He became a full-time NHLer in 2015-16 and in 175 career games Wideman has chalked up 16 goals and 27 assists, with 10 of those points coming on the powerplay.
Wideman comes with a cap hit of $1 million and is a UFA at the end of this season.
He’s more of an offensive defenseman, who can move the puck pretty well, so it makes sense as to why Chiarelli would have targeted a player like him.
Wideman was also one of the players involved in the Senators Uber scandal earlier this month, which might give some insight into why he was dealt (his minutes have also been dwindling). I don’t think this is an example of the Oilers bringing in a player who is bad in the room or anything like that. That seemed like an isolated incident and the entire Senators organization is kind of a mess, if you didn’t know already
Let’s focus on what Wideman can bring to the Oilers on the ice.
So far this season, Wideman has appeared in 19 games with the Senators, averaging just over 13 minutes per game, with an average of 2:30 of that coming on the powerplay.
At even strength, Wideman’s possession numbers are not very good. His ‘Corsi For’ and ‘Fenwick For’ percentages are both under 45%, even though he started 54% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
He’s spent almost all of his even strength minutes with two different partners. He’s played 87:58 with Thomas Chabot. Wideman actually saw a boost in his numbers when paired with Chabot, who is having an incredible offensive season.
He also played 53:16 with Mark Borowiecki and in that time he actually saw his numbers get dragged down, while most of Borowiecki’s numbers got a boost compared to when he played with a different partner.
Interesting to add that Wideman started more in the offensive zone with Borowiecki than he did with Chabot.
All in all, his numbers at even strength weren’t very good, but they were certainly a little bit better with a more offensive minded Chabot than with a more defensive minded Borowiecki. It will be interesting to see who the Oilers pair him with when he gets into the lineup. Will he push Kris Russell over to the left side and play with him? Will he bump Matt Benning out of the lineup and play with Gravel? Or would the Oilers see value in putting him next to Benning and putting two offensively minded defenders on their third pair?
Wideman has been known as a defenseman with a strong ability to work the point on the powerplay. His best powerplay season came in 2016-17, when he played 116 minutes on the man advantage, an average of just over 90 seconds a game. Majority of that time came on the Senator’s second unit as Erik Karlsson ran the top unit.
In that time, he had a 2.57 points/60, the same number that Oscar Klefbom boasts thus far in the 2018-19 season. He shot the puck at a rate of 7.72 shots/60, which is on par with what Matt Benning has done on the Oiler second unit this season.
The entire Oilers second unit has been underwhelming this season, and although I don’t think he’s been a problem, Oscar Klefbom hasn’t exactly been a world beater on the top unit. There’s a chance for Wideman to find a permanent spot in the lineup if he can find a way to be effective on the powerplay.
It’s also worth noting that Wideman has played just 22 seconds on the penalty kill. He offers zero value in that department.
IMPACT ON THE ROSTER
This gives the Oilers eight active defensemen on the roster and a total of 23 players. So no one technically has to be sent to the minors, but I can’t imagine the Oilers are too keen on keeping eight defensemen and just 13 forwards in the long-run.
One of Matt Benning, Kevin Gravel, or Jason Garrison will have to be sent to the minors. All three require waivers. I don’t think the Oilers would want to risk losing Matt Benning on waivers, even though he hasn’t been great this season, so I would imagine that Jason Garrison would be the odd man out. I just don’t think he has the legs to keep competing at the NHL level. Kevin Gravel has been more impressive to me.
Of course, if Wideman comes in and completely tanks, the Oilers could put him on waivers and assign him to Bakersfield with no salary cap implications since he only makes $1 million.
All in all, I like this trade. It’s a really low-risk move by Peter Chiarelli, and he’s typically pretty good at these smaller moves. Wideman can move pretty well, has more offensive upside than either Garrison or Gravel, and is a more proven powerplay option than Matt Benning. It didn’t really cost anything to acquire him and as I said, if he doesn’t work out, he can be sent away without any sort of consequence.
If things do work out, the Oilers may have found a solid puck moving defenseman who can slide up and down their lineup and possibly spark their second powerplay unit.