Senators’ Contract Extension With Chris Wideman Raises Questions

The Ottawa Senators announced early Wednesday morning they have signed D Chris Wideman to a two-year, $1.6m contract extension.

The 26-year-old is a late bloomer into the NHL, but has been well suited for the job in his rookie season. Having played 44 games so far this year, Wideman has five goals and four assists, ranking him third in scoring for first-year defenders. Most notably, he has been a reliable guy on the back end for Ottawa’s struggling d-core which continues to place last in the league for shots against per game.

“He brings us offence, he brings us mobility…I know he’s going to grow over the summer” – Bryan Murray (TSN 1200)

The $1.6m deal has a yearly average of $800,000, which is $200,000 more than Wideman is making this year. The kicker for him though, is this is a one-way contract. After playing four years with the University of Miami which then led him to three years with the Binghamton Senators, Wideman has had his fair share of time to grow as a hockey player. And with his stellar season in Binghamton last year – in which he led all defenceman with 61 points and was named the AHL’s best defenceman – he proved to Ottawa that he was ready to take the next step.

With this two-year bridge deal, Wideman will have to continue to prove his worth. While it brings stability, the deal also shows that Ottawa doesn’t want to risk anything with him, and that he has to prove himself again at the NHL level to get himself a raise past the two-year commitment.

Implications Of Extending Chris Wideman

The extension of Wideman brings to light a few question marks regarding the future of Senators’ defenceman Patrick Wiercioch. Both Wiercioch and Wideman have been fighting for the sixth defenceman spot all year, while the other usually gets the seat in the press box. Of the flurry of Ottawa’s trade rumours, Weircioch’s name is somewhere to be found in most of them. The offence-minded defenceman has been underused by the Senators as they’ve vocally presented their keenness on Mark Borowiecki and his presence in their day-to-day lineup.

Related: Chris Neil Looks For One More Year In Ottawa

After extending Wideman, Senators’ GM Bryan Murray made himself available to the media at their hotel in Vancouver Wednesday. He didn’t have much to say regarding Wiercioch and any plans they may have for him other than casually mentioning that, “we have to have seven defenceman”.

It’s no secret that the Senators have tried shopping Wiercioch before. Securing six defenceman until the 2018-19 season will allow them to continue to do that. Wiercioch is a UFA at the end of this season, making $2m this year. If he is dealt, Ottawa can explore their defensive options in Binghamton while they ride the wave of six defenceman that they’ve shown they’re confident in.

Food For Thought

In Murray’s interview today, he also spoke on Zack Smith and his recent burst of offence. Although he seemed careful with his words, he touched on the idea of Smith potentially being able to develop into a top six forward. If Murray has found what he is looking for during that long stretch of a search, the trade talks surrounding Wiercioch could look different than expected. The only thing Murray has made clear about his intentions right now is that he is not looking for a rental. He’s looking for a player to join the roster long-term.