And it's not just that the Flames are committed to him for five years at age 29 -- lengthy terms happen in free agency, too.
Nor is it that full no-trade and no-movement clause, which -- well, those are kind of rare, actually. But whatever. Free agency isn't cheap.
Rather, it's all of these overreaching commitments put together for what can at best be described as an average defenseman. That's what has Flames fans looking fondly at the edge of the pier, what has so many NHL observers scratching their heads.
Because every sober analyst can concede that to add an NHL talent for "free" via the league's annual open season, you have to pay the premium that the bidding war demands. (Never mind that technically the Flames never even got to the bidding war stage, having given the Washington Capitals a 5th-round pick and a minor leaguer for the right to talk to Wideman before open season arrived.)
But if you're going to pay that premium, you better be sure it's an area of great need. And Wideman rarely fills a great need. He's an all right power-play quarterback. He's above average at collecting points from the blueline. He also makes grave, maddening, soul-sucking defensive gaffes -- just ask fans in St. Louis, Boston, Florida or Washington. As a "defenseman," as the position is described, Wideman gives you a bit of bonus action in the offensive zone and a healthy dose of fright in the defensive zone.
In other words, the most sober analytic analysis says on his good days Wideman's a nice second-pair defenseman, but you don't give nice second-pair defensemen $26.5 million over five years from ages 29-33 with full no-trade protection. It's just too much of ... well, too much of everything you can throw at a player.
There are two nagging things about the Flames that make this contract particularly unsettling:
First, giving no-trade clauses out like candy is one of the major tactical errors that crippled the Flames and sent them into this limbo of constant not-rebuilding, not-making-the-playoffs stasis. When Jay Feaster took over as GM, surely most Flames fans thought the era of handing out inflexibility was over.
Second, a much-better Flames defenseman (who also makes too much, but at least he's a top-pair guy) in Jay Boewmeester has been the topic of frequent trade rumors. Of course he too has a no-trade clause, so good luck getting fair value if you coax him into waiving it.
At $6.68 million, Boewmeester is a bit of a cap weight, but at least he's effective at what he does. No, he's not contributing offense as hoped, but he's playing the toughest minutes on the Flames blueline. So Wideman slots in nicely behind him ... assuming they're keeping Boewmeester around.
Wideman is a nice defenseman. He will make fans happy at times. He will drive them nuts at others, a fair reflection of why he's been traded four times since 2008 (and his original franchise, the Buffalo Sabres, let him walk).
The Flames have given too much, for too long, for too little reason, for a nice defenseman. When hoping to take a middling team out of annual limbo, that's a problem.