Dennis Wideman gets big payday after defenseman is dealt to Calgary

It might not have been a slam dunk that Dennis Wideman wouldn’t be back with the Washington Capitals. But with the defenseman likely heading for a big payday in unrestricted free agency, it became apparent that it wouldn’t be coming here.

So when the Calgary Flames reached out and wanted to acquire Wideman’s negotiating rights, general manager George McPhee made it happen, trading the All-Star for a fifth-round pick and the rights to impending free agent defenseman Jordan Henry.

“Based on what we had to do and sort of putting all the payroll models together, it was going to be hard to keep [Wideman],” McPhee said. “He plays right ‘D’ and we have two other right defensemen in [Mike] Green and [John] Carlson that need new deals and need to play a lot.”

Wideman inked a five-year, $26.25 million with a $5.25 million annual cap hit that makes it obvious why he didn’t fit into Washington’s plans. The 29-year-old coming off the market hurts the already thin crop of defensemen set to be available when free agency opens Sunday. It should, however help the likes of Nashville’s Ryan Suter and Philadelphia’s Matt Carle land big-money deals.

As for the Capitals moving forward, McPhee voiced satisfaction in his current group and the possibility for young Dmitry Orlov to contribute more and college free agent Cameron Schilling to make the team.

“We think Orlov is in a place now where he can play just as much [as Wideman],” McPhee said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape. Orlov’s going to play, and we like the Schilling kid that played in Hershey [AHL] at the end of the year. He played really well and should see games here. In my mind, we’ve got seven with a possible eight there.”

Green and Carlson, both restricted free agents, are expected to return to a defense corps that includes Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Orlov.

Henry was included in the deal because the Flames needed to shed a contract to take on Wideman. They gave the Caps the choice of four players, and Henry was the pick because scouts thought he might have some potential with Hershey.

Assistants picture unclear

With the introduction of Adam Oates as coach came the obvious question about his staff. Dean Evason is already gone, off to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals as their head man, but fellow assistant Jim Johnson’s status is unclear.

McPhee said it’s “not a definite” that Johnson, hired a day after Dale Hunter in late November, won’t return.

“I know he’s talking to another club, and it may work out with them. I can’t deny him the right to do that,” the Caps’ GM said. “I don’t want to hold anybody back while we’re doing this. That may happen with another club. If it doesn’t, he could be a candidate when we get back to this next week.”

Johnson declined to comment.

Assembling Oates’ staff will be a collaboration.

“We’ll do it together and probably get it done next week. We’ve got some business to do the next few days to get organized,” McPhee said. “We certainly have a list and we’ll get at it.”

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