As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $3,937,500 in 2010-11, $3,937,500 in 2011-12.
The year that was: When the Capitals traded prospect Jake Hauswirth and their third-round pick in the 2011 draft to the Florida Panthers for Dennis Wideman, it was a move of necessity. Mike Green had recently suffered a concussion when hit in the head by Derek Stepan, and it was unclear at the time how many games he would miss, and General Manager George McPhee knew he needed to provide more support to his defense.
Wideman, a puck-mover with a right-handed shot, quickly assimilated to the Capitals and their style of play to provide additional blueline depth. He was able to log significant ice time from the start, playing at least 22 minutes and as much as 28 on some occasions in his first 13 games in a Capitals sweater.
Wideman’s presence helped create some more chances on Washington’s power play, which was grossly inconsistent all season, but the unit only went 7-for-38 when he played. Wideman’s veteran ability to push the puck up ice with on-the-mark outlet passes, at even strength or during special-teams play, was something that the Capitals had missed while weathering a daunting injury report.
But Washington couldn’t guess that Wideman would be the next defenseman to suffer an untimely injury. On March 29 against Carolina, Wideman was already sliding to the ice awkwardly when he was hit knee-to-thigh by Tuomo Ruutu. A few days later, news broke that Wideman was in the hospital after suffering a leg hematoma and compartment syndrome on the play.
The good news was that the muscle damage to Wideman’s leg was limited. He began skating only a few weeks after the injury and even pushed himself for a possible return in the playoffs, but did not play again before the Capitals were swept by Tampa Bay in the second round of the playoffs.
Looking ahead: Wideman wasn’t a rental at the trade deadline, what with a year remaining on his current contract. Despite the severity of the hematoma and length of recovery, he should be ready for the 2011-12 season and give him the opportunity to still be a significant contributor to Washington’s defense. That said, it will be important to keep an eye on Wideman as he returns to play following the hematoma, which, in some instances, can lead to recurring problems like it did with former Boston Bruin Cam Neely.
Wideman never had a chance to play with the Capitals’ blueline at full strength and never suited up for a game with Mike Green in the lineup, either. The possibilities of what the defense – and power play -- could look like with both Wideman and Green in the mix are numerous.