Impending free agent defenseman Dennis Wideman said all the right things last week before packing his bags and walking out of the Capitals practice facility in Arlington, possibly for the final time.
Yeah, I like it here, Wideman said when asked if hed like to return to the Capitals next season. I had a lot of fun here in the last year. I obviously like where were going. The core group of guys here is really, really good. So, why not? Yeah, Id love to be back.
Sounds well and good until you consider what Wideman may cost. The 29-year-old defenseman increased his market value by playing in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game and leading all Caps defensemen in goals 11, assists 35 and points 46.
And even though Widemans production tailed off significantly in the second half of the season, when he scored just one goal in his final 31 games and was a team-worst minus-17 in 14 playoff games, he should receive an increase on the 4.5 million he earned last season in the final year of a four-year, 15.75 million contract.
I havent talked to my agent yet about whats going to happen, said Wideman, who is represented by Larry Kelly. Obviously, theres a lot going on with the CBA. Ill have a meeting with him in the next few weeks and see whats going on.
It is worth noting that Wideman did not discuss a new contract with Capitals general manager George McPhee during the season. That could be an indication that both sides are prepared to allow July 1 to come without an offer coming from the Capitals.
Wideman is in a good situation because outside of Nashvilles Ryan Suter, who could be headed to Detroit or Philly but would look really good in a Caps uniform, and Philadelphias Matt Carle, who is interested in playing for Calgary, the pool of quality free-agent defensemen is shallow this summer. That could drive Widemans value to the 5 million or higher range.
With that in mind, the Caps likely will retain the services of restricted free agents Mike Green and John Carlson, which would give them a defensive depth chart of Karl Alzner, Carlson, Green, Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz and Kevin Marshall heading into next season.
Is that enough to get it done? Or do the Caps need to make a trade for a mobile, snarly defenseman who can make opposing forwards keep their heads up before crossing the blue line?