counts himself among the fortunate these days.
Signed to a new contract by the Boston Bruins
this week, Wideman, 25, now has a hefty raise, job security and a more pronounced role on the Bruins’ defense.
"If you asked me two years ago if I'd ever be signing a four-year contract and making that kind of money, I would have laughed at you," said Wideman, who was originally selected by Buffalo in the eighth-round of the 2002 entry Draft. "To come this far in a year and have this come together, I feel really fortunate. I'm happy."
When the Sabres drafted Wideman, he was simply grateful and excited to have a chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL. After the Sabres passed on signing him to an entry-level contract, the St. Louis Blues
jumped in and signed the puck-moving defenseman to a one-year contract. While Wideman showed promise in the offensive end and on the power-play, he struggled in his own end, going minus-31 in 2005-06. In the process, he was labeled a “risky” defenseman.
Wideman did his best to shed that label in his second season with the Blues in 2006-07, trimming his minus to a minus-7. Still, he was criticized for taking too many chances. By the time the trade deadline passed in February 2007, Wideman found himself playing in Boston, having been traded for forward Brad Boyes
As Wideman worked to tighten up his game and fit in with the Bruins, Boyes, a fan favorite in Boston, got hot for the Blues, notching 12 points in the last 19 games of the 2006-07 season. Boyes followed that with 43 goals in 2007-08. Needless to say, the trade looked like a stinker to many Bruins fans, but the club stuck with Wideman and now are reaping the rewards.
“They were quite hard on me,” Wideman said of the coaching staff and his teammates, specifically captain Zdeno Chara
. “Sometimes when I made a play that I probably shouldn't have and it worked out, they still let me know on the bench that they didn't want me doing that on a regular basis. They were drilling that in my head over and over again. And getting to play with Chara for the majority of the season makes everybody look a little better.”
Wideman definitely became a better player. After being a healthy scratch in Dallas for the season opener, he played the remaining 81 games, finishing the season with career highs in goals (13), assists (23), power-play goals (9) and was a plus-11.
Even more remarkable was his ice time. The once “risky” Wideman, averaged 25:09 per game. As Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledged, the team did work hard to get the message across to Wideman, but the player also was deserving of some credit.
“The market is what it is,” Chiarelli said of signing Wideman. “You have to adhere to it to a certain degree, and I think we’re very fortunate to lock up Dennis for those number of years.”
“There might have been a couple contracts this summer that people shake their head at, but the fact of the matter - and this applies to Dennis - is that he showed he can put in minutes,” Chiarelli said. “Regardless of whether he played with ‘Z’ or not, he can compete, put up points, play an effective power play. But, most importantly by far, he's able to spot that first pass, make that pass, and contribute to the flow and pace going the other way.”
Wideman wants to continue to improve and perfect those attributes.
“I think I’ve made a lot of strides in my game in the past couple of years,” he said. “And I also think I’ve made strides (thanks to) the coaching staff and the organization here.
“Hopefully that’s not the end (because) every year you’re trying to get better and you’re trying to learn more. I’m happy with how far I’ve come, but I’m not satisfied. I want to get a lot better and help this team get a lot better.”