Dennis Wideman seems to be public enemy number one for most Flames fans. While he was useful in the 2014-2015 season putting up 56 points in 80 games, those numbers fell off the face of the earth in 2015-2016 as he posted 19 points in 51 games and battled both injuries and a suspension for obliterating a referee. He carries a massive 5.25 million cap hit for one more year and the Flames carry a dearth of defensemen that play on the right side that are simply better than he is. With about 15.6 million in cap space remaining not including the two way contract of Linden Vey or the contracts of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau (who have yet to be re-signed), the Flames will definitely want to move on this year so that they can fill out their bottom six with something that can hold their own.
It's fathomable that the team just buys out the rest of Wideman's contract. While that would be the easy route, the team seems insistent on finding a trade partner to pawn him off to first and they're clearly looking to exhaust all possible options before they go in the direction of a buyout. The problem with that is he hasn't been very useful and the Flames will likely have to take something back in return and/or possibly send assets the other way in order to make that happen - one only needs to look at the Chicago Blackhawks trading Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina Hurricanes in order to rid themselves of Bryan Bickell's awful contract to realize that. They'd also still have to find free agents to sign or individuals to trade for to fill out the roster.
One team that might be interested in making such a move might be the New York Islanders. The Islanders have a few forwards with longer terms which probably need to be shortened up. While they might not be useful for their organization, the Flames could certainly use their services. After all, the Flames bottom six certainly doesn't glitter right now.
Why the Islanders do it
The Islanders are a team that are likely looking to free up some cap space longer term as they have quite a few bad contracts committed to players that are basically third line players. Three of their top prospects, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Ryan Strome are coming off of down years where they were basically third line talent. They've also lost two of their top three forwards in Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. While the addition of Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parenteau helps to mitigate that a bit, they still have 12 guaranteed contracts to forwards that will all be fighting for a spot and Strome will undoubtedly make 13.
They also have a litany of prospects looking to make their debuts or continue their careers with the big club. Alan Quine had himself a decent showing in the playoffs and did quite well in the AHL last year while Matthew Barzal, Joshua Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle are all first round picks that will eventually have to get a shot or be moved for other pieces. Only two of their forwards, Parenteau and Cal Clutterbuck, are not under contract for 2017-2018. That makes for a very flat progression of their roster.
Wideman doesn't necessarily fit a need for them, but at the very least his contract is at least a year shorter than everybody that they might look to move. He would be a seventh defenseman off the bench for them; a veteran presence which allows players like Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech to continue their development down on their farm without being consistently scratched. In the event of any injuries to their defensive corps, he'd be a guy to plug in for both even strength and power play situations. If they didn't want to keep him around, they'd be able to buy him out and save both money and term versus the players they'd potentially trade away.
Players they might move
The Flames won't get any top prospects for Wideman, but they could potentially fill out their third line in exchange for him. The players that they'd likely look to move would be Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, and/or Josh Bailey. Any one of them could move and each of them for different reasons.
For Kulemin, he's kind of a sub-par third line quality player with a mediocre penalty killing ability. His -.89% relative Corsi on a team that's posted above average possession is hardly terrible, though he won't put up a ton of points. The penalty killing was down in 2014-2015 as his team allowed 5.01 more Corsi attempts per 60 minutes on the penalty kill, but that improved greatly in 2015-2016 as the Islanders allowed 1.44 less Corsi attempts per 60 minutes. He'd be a serviceable upgrade for the Flames on line three, but the Islanders may find his roughly 4.2 million AAV for the next two seasons a bit to steep considering they have a number of players that could replace him.
Grabovski has been a player that's been a great driver of possession when healthy. He's posted a relative Corsi of +1.83% over the previous two seasons and for a team like the Flames who have struggled mightily in that aspect, they could definitely use that. The problem is that he's struggled to remain healthy as he's seen a number of concussions and doesn't add much to the special teams. He might be an L.T.I.R. candidate and if that's the case, they might not move him. If he intends to play, they may want to ship him out due to the fear that one hit could end his career. At five million AAV for the next two seasons, this would be a high risk, high reward situation for the Flames.
Bailey is a player who has seen better days and would likely benefit from a change of scenery. He's also quite loathed by most fans and after an off-season that's seen three long-tenured fan favorites depart, shipping him out would probably save the organization some face. While he was once a decent possession player, he's been at -.9% relative over the past two years despite being somewhat sheltered with his quality of teammate Corsi. Still, the Islanders are a considerably better possession team than the Flames are so this would still be serviceable for them. Like Grabovski, he does not add much on special teams but does not carry the same injury risk and his 3.3 million AAV would be considerably easier to swallow.
Any one of these individuals could be shipped out. Adding Wideman into the mix forces them to take on salary for one year, but that might also force the Flames to sweeten the pot a bit to get a deal done. With their roster looking close to set, that might be worth their while.
Why the Flames do it
The Flames don't want Wideman on the team at all and they've made that pretty clear. It's understandable given the defense that they already have. They likely want to re-sign Jakub Nakladal and have him fill out the final spot on the right hand side of their defense. Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and Nakladal makes a stellar combination down the right side. With Deryk Engelland being there as well and likely the fourth guy there, that leaves Wideman as an odd man out.
Having Wideman as seventh or eighth defender doesn't make nearly as much sense for the Flames as it would for the Islanders. The Islanders have about 4.9 million in cap space with only Strome and Quine left to re-sign plus they'll be looking to move on from Jaroslav Halak's 4.5 million AAV. The Flames will have considerably less once Monahan and Gaudreau get their contracts unless some type of miracle happens. Moving Wideman for something that they can actually use would their best case scenario.
The Flames bottom six currently looks like a tire fire of unmitigated proportions. Lance Bouma was terrible and injured, Matt Stajan couldn't carry the horrible players that he was forced to play with, Micheal Ferland had a bit of a down year, Garnet Hathaway was a walking PIM machine, Alex Chiasson simply hasn't been very good for the past two years, Brandon Bollig has been a combination of all of these things, and Vey has been a possession sieve with next to no scoring touch with the Kings and Canucks. While adding Hunter Shinkaruk and/or Andrew Mangiapane might help, it wouldn't be fair of the club to essentially put their season's hopes and dreams in the hopes that one or two rookies potentially turn around the third line. Kulemin, Bailey, and Grabovski might not have a spot on the Islanders, but the Flames desperately require these types of players' services.
The most obvious snag that all of this could hit would be if Wideman absolutely refuses to accept a trade to the Islanders. If that happens, it's basically game over. If that's the case, the Flames could still potentially swing an Engelland for Bailey trade and the Islanders might accept that with some additional fodder thrown in such as picks or lower level prospects as the salaries aren't that much different.
Another snag that they'd likely be looking at would be how much the Islanders wanted in return for taking Wideman off of the books. That likely comes in the form of picks and if it's too excessive, the Flames might look elsewhere. A buyout may ultimately be a better option if they command too much.
The final snag is Grabovski's status. If he's too hurt to play the Islanders may want to keep all of their options, but that still leaves them with 12 forwards leaving their top prospects on the outside looking in. They generally like to play it safe with their prospects, but given the off-season that they just had this might cause the fan base to go nuclear.
A number of scenarios could take place if the two wish to tango. The one that comes out closest in salary is Wideman for Grabovski which would result in the Islanders obtaining an additional 250 thousand AAV but losing a year of term. They Islanders may want to receive a bit of a bonus for taking a player that was rather lackluster, but given Grabovski's injury history that shouldn't be much worse than a fifth round pick and if it is the Flames should walk.
Kulemin seems less likely due to the fact that he's still somewhat serviceable and cheaper. The Islanders would be taking back a little over a million dollars, though losing a year of term. Given that Kulemin still has use and is cheaper, this one seems like it could come out to a third round pick going back to the Islanders.
Bailey for Wideman seems like it's a non-starter due to the difference in AAV. The Islanders would be acquiring close to two million AAV in this scenario, so they would really have to want to lose that additional year. The pick going back the other way might be higher than the Kulemin scenario strictly due to the difference in AAV.
Of course there could be a combination of Wideman and another player for any of the three. Wideman and Engelland for Bailey and Grabovski comes close to breaking even and basically rebuilds the Flames third line on the fly, but the pick is likely steep in this situation - potentially as high as a second rounder and adding a year of term. If it appeases the Islanders to drop those two contracts in 2017-2018 and the Flames can get it done for a third round pick, it behooves Treliving to pull the trigger on this deal.
Bollig could be thrown in instead of Engelland which may decrease the pick cost, but forces the Flames to add a bit more salary. Kulemin could be switched in for Grabovski in this situation, but that leaves the Islanders a bit short if Grabovski gets hurt and likely ups the pick cost for the Flames. The benefit for the Flames wouldn't be as high, but there's less of a chance at losing a player to injury.
Regardless of which players the Flames might target in a move with the Islanders, it's likely that they'd have to send out at least some other asset or assets to make it worth New York's while. The question then becomes how much the Islanders value dropping term and how valuable they feel Wideman is. There's no shortage in potential scenarios and while there's no rumour to cement them, they'd likely be beneficial for both franchises. Perhaps the two can get something done.