Dennis Wideman seeks redemption in Florida after tough year in Boston

GYI0060279209-wideman-elsa-getty.jpgIt can be tough to be traded as it’s always a major disruption in a player’s life and his career. For a guy like Dennis Wideman, it may have come as a blessing in disguise. Last year, the offensively-talented Wideman had some growing pains dealing with the playoff-anxious Bruins. Bruins fans were about as bi-polar in their treatment of Wideman as we’ve seen with any player in recent memory. No player went from goat, to hero, back to goat again as seamlessly as Dennis Wideman seemed to with the Bruins.

During the summer, Wideman was shipped to Florida in the Nathan Horton trade and for him, the disruption hasn’t dissuaded his attitude towards playing and tells The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa that he’s ready to go and continue improving in Florida.

“Last year wasn’t one of my better years,” he said. “There were a lot of guys who didn’t have very good years last year. Mine, it just seemed, got shone upon a little brighter. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

As there are questions about work ethic with Horton, there are warts to Wideman’s game. When he struggled with his confidence last season, pucks bobbled off his stick. He lost his footing retrieving pucks. Forwards blew past him to create scoring chances.

But just as there is promise to Horton’s game, the Panthers recognized Wideman’s ceiling. In last year’s playoffs, Wideman led the Bruins in scoring with 1 goal and 11 assists, while averaging 26:02 of ice time.

“I think the last stretch run, I think I was almost a point a game in the last 20-25 games of the year,” Wideman said. “Things just finally got better then. I started feeling good. Confidence was good. Things started getting better and better, then I had a good playoff run.”

There’s no doubt that Florida is going to have their handfuls of trouble this year. They’re solid in goal, they’ve got one stellar scoring line and yet Bryan McCabe is still their captain and their best defenseman. Things drop off pretty hard for the Panthers from there, but if they can get a confident Wideman out there, it would give them a guy capable of playing solid on the power play and give the Panthers just a little bit more depth and a guy who can be a step above being a role player on the blue line.

Mind you, the Panthers figure to still be rough around the edges, but at least if Wideman pans out they can hold this moral victory over the Bruins’ heads. Hey, you have to win at something these days, right?

(Photo: Elsa – Getty Images)

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    Stars give Lindell two-year extension

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    More news out of Dallas, where the Stars have signed defenseman Esa Lindell to a two-year, $4.4-million contract extension.

    From the release:

    Lindell, 23, posted 18 points (6-12=18) in 73 games played for Dallas during the 2016-17 regular season, his first full season in the NHL. He finished second on the team by averaging 21:52 of time on ice per game and his +8 plus/minus rating finished third. Additionally, he finished second on the team with 119 blocked shots and tied for fifth with 93 hits.

    The Stars still have a couple of restricted free agents on the back end. Both Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are arbitration-eligible. Lindell was not.

    Earlier today, it was reported that the Stars were buying out goalie Antti Niemi.

    Dallas also signed forward Mark McNeill to a one-year, two-way contract extension. The 24-year-old was acquired from Chicago in the Johnny Oduya trade on Feb. 28.

    Lightning extend Gourde — two years, $2 million

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    Yanni Gourde has cashed in on an impressive 20-game cameo with Tampa Bay this season.

    Gourde signed a two-year, $2 million extension on Monday, the Bolts announced. The deal came after the 25-year-old scored six goals and eight points in 20 games, while averaging 15:22 TOI per night.

    Undrafted out of the Quebec League, Gourde has been a terrific AHL player since catching on with the Tampa Bay organization a few years ago.

    He was instrumental in Syracuse’s run to the Calder Cup final this year — scoring 27 points in 22 games — and, given his new deal is of the one-way variety, seems primed to spend next year with the Lightning.

    “It’s an unbelievable feeling to sign that kind of a deal knowing where I’ve come from,” Gourde said, per NHL.com. “It’s the organization that trusted me very early in my career, and I thank them for that.”

    Carolina’s strategy of flipping picks for players ‘just didn’t pan out’

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    In late May, the ‘Canes looked like a team primed to trade some draft picks.

    GM Ron Francis kicked off proceedings by sending one of his 11 picks — a third-rounder — to Chicago for goalie Scott Darling. Shortly thereafter, Francis said his club had “the open for business sign out there,”suggesting he was ready to wheel and deal.

    But said wheeling and dealing never occurred.

    “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to take a few less picks,” Francis said after he selected nine players at the draft, per ‘Canes Country. “We’d had a lot of discussions about trying to move picks for players, but it just didn’t pan out the way we had hoped.”

    Prior to landing in Chicago, it was obvious the goal for Francis and head coach Bill Peters was to add pieces that’d help get the ‘Canes back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team has shown steady improvement over the last three years — going from 30 to 35 to 36 wins — and had a nice late push before ultimately falling short this season.

    “I think we have specific needs, very specific needs,” Peters said at Carolina’s end-of-year media availability. “So as a coach I’m going to give very specific names.”

    As many clubs experienced at the draft, trades weren’t easy to orchestrate. It was a stark contrast to the flurry of action that proceeded the event — Jonathan Drouin to Montreal, Jordan Eberle to the Islanders, huge shakeups in both Arizona and Chicago.

    The perceived weakness of said draft could’ve played a role in the lack of movement. It’s also worth noting that Francis did use one of his picks, a fifth-rounder, for Vegas to select Connor Brickley at the expansion draft.

    And, to be clear, this doesn’t mean Carolina still can’t add players. Free agency opens on Saturday. But draft weekend certainly feels like an opportunity missed, given this year’s UFA market doesn’t project to be very strong.

    Report: Stars to buy out Antti Niemi

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    The Antti Niemi era in Dallas is mercifully over.

    Per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, the Stars will place Niemi on waivers for the purposes of buying out the final year of his contract. The buyout will result in a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

    Niemi, 33, joined the Stars in 2015 with the hope he’d form an effective tandem with Kari Lehtonen.

    But the experiment was a dismal failure. In 85 games over two seasons, Niemi registered a .900 save percentage, and the Stars responded last month by signing Ben Bishop to a six-year contract worth almost $30 million.

    GM Jim Nill had hoped that one of Niemi or Lehtonen could be traded in the wake of the Bishop signing.

    Lehtonen, 33, is still under contract for another year at a cap hit of $5.9 million. He had a .902 save percentage last season, higher than Niemi’s .892.