Ottawa Senators: Wideman Signing Complicates The Blueline


Just two days before free agency, it was announced that the Ottawa Senators had finally re-signed defenseman Chris Wideman to a 1-year two-way contract. The contract will pay him $600,000 in the NHL and a whopping $400,000 in the AHL. It’s not very often you see someone have that big of an AHL contract, but considering the amount of time he’s spent in the minors, he deserves it.

I was a bit worried that he was going to test the UFA waters and sign elsewhere, but I’m glad that he’s still with the organization–for now. The thing is, he is still with the Senators and has a two-way deal. But the two-way deal doesn’t mean much if they want to send him down to the minors:

So the fact that he makes less money in the AHL than in the NHL doesn’t mean much, and it’s the exact same situation Mike Hoffman was in. He had a two-way contract, but had to pass through waivers a couple of seasons ago when Ottawa sent him down (sidenote: amazing how lucky Ottawa is that nobody claimed him).

Ottawa is essentially giving Wideman one shot at making the team, and if he doesn’t impress then there’s a very good chance he could be gone. Perhaps nobody takes him because he would have to stay in the NHL with that team, but that’s not a risk I’m willing to make.

I’ve said before about how much I want to see Wideman with the team, as he was Binghamton’s best player and the league’s best defenseman last year yet he didn’t even dress up for the Senators when he was “called up.”

He’s the same age as Erik Karlsson, and much like Mike Hoffman deserved a chance this year, Wideman deserves one too. I hope he takes the same path that Hoffman did, as over time they realized he needed to stay in the lineup (even though he wasn’t Dave Cameron‘s favourite sometimes). Maybe he will prove to be not good enough in the NHL, but there’s zero risk in seeing what he’s got.

At the age of 25, he’s ready. Plus he’s an offensive puck-moving defenseman that Ottawa needs, and I really think that he could help out someone like Mark Borowiecki on the third pairing. Having an offensive minded player on each of the pairings would be quite optimal for the Senators, and I hope they realize that.

But here’s the problem…Jared Cowen and Chris Phillips exist. And somehow they are still members of this team. In fact, if it were up to me I would move Mark Borowiecki as well, but I can deal with him being the 6th/7th defenseman. And now Ottawa has six defensemen with one-way contracts, plus Cody Ceci and Wideman. That means there are once again eight players where there should be seven, even after trading away Eric Gryba.

I just can’t see where Wideman fits in, which is very depressing. He’s a talented player that has been patiently waiting. But instead, Bryan Murray thinks that Cowen could still be the answer:

Despite tons of evidence that Cowen has been awful for Ottawa, Murray has faith.

And perhaps he will. There’s a non-zero chance Cowen improves his game and is an important part of the team. But the chances of that happening are so slim, because to me it looks like he doesn’t have the skills to play in the NHL. His biggest weakness though is that he simply isn’t a smart player. He constantly makes the wrong decision and his errors always cost the team.

It’s not as if he’s a risky offensive player that can create chances either, so he doesn’t provide much to the team at all. He showed us that he might be a solid player back in 2011-12 (his rookie season), but since then it has been all downhill. You can’t blame his play on injuries, as we’re well past that point from two seasons ago.

Callum Fraser had some great thoughts about Cowen from yesterday at Silver Seven Sens, and I agree with everything he had to say. From his article, here was a graph that represented Cowen’s massive drop in possession numbers:

Even in his 2011-12 season, he was above average in corsi and fenwick %, but his actual shot % was below 50%. And since then, somehow his numbers have taken a massive drop. This past season was his worst, and he stood out in a bad way. Here is his Bombay chart that measures various things like points/60 and possession numbers:

He was below average in everything, which obviously isn’t a good sign. But for some reason, Murray and the Senators think he can magically improve and play better than someone like Wideman.

The only reasons why Cowen is still being given a chance is because:

A) He’s big

B) He’s a former 9th overall pick so he has pedigree

C) He has a big contract so Ottawa doesn’t want to admit their mistake

It’s pathetic really, because he hasn’t shown anything in the past few years. I know he will still be with the organization for this coming season, but if he hasn’t made major progressions and they still can’t cut ties with him a year from now, then it will just be comical.

It’s sad seeing Wideman not being given a shot just because a 24-year-old defenseman might not be horrendous. At the end of the day, I don’t totally mind giving Cowen some games at the beginning of the season, but he should be an a very short leash. If he isn’t playing well after 10 games, then he needs to either be traded or waived.

Something has to give, and either Cowen or Phillips has to be moved at some point

I would be much more excited about Wideman re-signing if Cowen and Phillips weren’t on the team, or at least if Murray was willing to let them go somehow. Phillips is an interesting case because I really don’t know how he fits into Ottawa’s lineup. He’s not anywhere close to an NHL player anymore, and Ottawa has so many better players behind him. Him being on the team is just as perplexing, but I can only bring so much frustration into one article.

Wideman will have to be given a chance at the beginning of the season, but that means there will be eight defensemen once again. Something has to give, and either Cowen or Phillips has to be moved at some point.

This was supposed to be a rant against playing Cowen, but since Wideman has re-signed, it angers me even more that a player like Wideman has to sit on the sidelines despite his skill-set. There are much better options for Ottawa, and right now their blueline is a mess even after trading Gryba.

I just hope that one day the Senators will see the light and cut ties with Cowen and give Wideman a spot on the team. It is what’s best for the organization.

Next: The Lehner, Legwand, and Gryba Trades

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