The Montreal Canadiens are a team that can not be fixed overnight. Or, over the course of a single offseason that is. This will take some time.
That is why the re-signing of a depth defenceman like Chris Wideman is extremely exciting. Fans have to understand that a little patience is going to be needed to build this thing the right way.
The wrong thing to do would be to overpay in free agency for an old star like Patrice Bergeron or Kris Letang or make a trade for an overpaid veteran looking to bounce back like Erik Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Then, hope that Carey Price is healthy next season so the team can try and compete for a playoff spot.
Veterans like those mentioned would make the team better in the near future, but not nearly good enough to contend for a playoff spot. And maybe not even good enough to make the playoffs if Price plays five games again next season.
What this team needs is a little patience. We don’t want aging, overpaid veterans on long term contracts. But we also don’t want to force young players into the lineup if the team is no good.
Enter Chris Wideman. He is a 32 year old offensive defenceman who is capable of playing at the NHL level and putting up a few points. He can be counted on to play regular minutes, but isn’t going to win games on his own, or be so bad that the team can’t dress him on a regular basis.
In fact, he just might be the Canadiens best option for the top power play. He showed some chemistry with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki on the man advantage last season, and can help those young forwards put up points on the power play.
Meanwhile, a right defender like Justin Barron can start next season in the minors, and will only be called up if he is more than ready for the NHL level. If the 20 year old needs to play the whole season in the AHL, he can do that while David Savard, Jeff Petry and Wideman play the right side at the NHL level.
If Barron proves he is too good for the AHL and has to be in the NHL lineup, Wideman’s salary is an easy one to devour if he is pushed to a role as a 7th defender.
Wideman’s new contract with the Canadiens is a two-way deal with a cap hit of $762,500. He is the definition of a stopgap for a team in transition. He is good enough to play at the NHL level, and keep the younger players in the minors, but he isn’t so good that the Canadiens will be measurably better next season and draft 12th overall instead of top five again.
The Wideman contract shows the team knows it is in transition in 2022-23 and will likely not be competing for the postseason. Instead of spending big dollars in free agency to get a slightly better player, the Canadiens are keeping Wideman to eat minutes and play some power play as the team embarks on their rebuild.
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