By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens have announced this morning having agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with pending UFA Chris Wideman. The 32 year-old defenseman managed 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 64 games with the Canadiens in 2021-22 after signing a one-year contract in July 2021. The 5-foot 10-inches, 180 lbs defender has 20 goals and 52 helpers in 245 career NHL games with the Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and Canadiens.
Oof… that’s it for the news. Now, the implication, or explanation if you wish. You can say that Wideman’s signing is predominantly for one aspect of his game: he’s right handed. Yes, defensemen that shoot right are rare in today’s NHL and they usually come at a premium. With Jeff Petry, another righty, likely to be traded, it leaves the entire Canadiens organization in dire need for rearguards who shoot and pass right. Here’s the depth chart:
|Jeff Petry||34||On the trade block|
|David Savard||31||$3.5M cap hit until 2024-25|
|Chris Wideman||32||Just re-signed for two years|
|Justin Barron||20||Likely to rotate between AHL and NHL|
|Louie Belpedio||26||AHL – Pending UFA|
|Josh Brook||22||RFA – Finished the season in the ECHL|
|Logan Mailloux||19||Played 31 gms in two seasons, returning to OHL|
|Dmitri Kostenko||19||Played in VHL in Russia|
|Daniil Sobolev||19||Will return to OHL|
So as you can see, when Petry is traded, your top-pairing right-handed defenseman is one of Savard, Barron or Wideman, as it stands right now. This means having to play a left-handed rearguard to the right, which is far from ideal at the NHL level. Even worse when putting a young player in that position, against hockey’s best players in the world.
To determine a defenseman who qualifies as a top-4 on a team, the most valuable column to look at is the time the said player spends on the ice each game. The top-10 pending UFAs who happen to be right-handed defensemen, by ice time last season, are:
Off that group, Letang, Klingberg and Stralman are still top-4 defensemen in the NHL. Braun, Manson and Miller can fill in on the second pairing if need be.
Which leaves the trade market and with several Canadiens’ players available (mostly to shed salary), Kent Hughes will have to be creative to address the right side of his defense for next season. He is on record saying that if he trades Petry, he wants to replace him by a veteran right-handed defenseman. Something tells me that he didn’t mean Wideman. So stay tuned…