NHL Free Agency 2012: Jay Feaster Signs Dennis Wideman and Blake Comeau

Kyle Alexander@kalexanderSM101Contributor IIIJune 27, 2012

Free agency in the NHL doesn't begin until July 1.

But that hasn't stopped some GMs from making moves now in order to strengthen their teams or acquire some much-needed assets.

Two of the biggest moves this afternoon involved Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster.

His first move, as reported by the Flames' official website, was to acquire the rights to Washington Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft and prospect Jordan Henry.

Known for being a puck-mover able to contribute some offense, Wideman seems like a good acquisition for the Flames. But then you look at the details of the contract—five years with a $5.25 million cap hit each year, with Wideman's salary actually going up over the course of the deal until it hits $6 million in the 2017.  

Even with CBA talks getting underway and the salary cap ceiling reportedly ready to reach $70 million, this still seems like a tremendous overpayment for a fairly average offensive defenseman. Wideman's numbers were solid last year, as he managed 46 points in 82 games and was selected to the All-Star Game, but they dropped off precipitously towards the end of the season and into the playoffs.

He didn't score very many points at even strength, and he's never been considered a terrific passer or a gifted power-play quarterback.

Furthermore, this signing will likely have far-reaching effects around the league, as Feaster has set an expensive precedent for pending UFAs—particularly defensemen. Ryan Suter and Jason Garrison are going to command tremendous salaries on the open market come July 1st, if they decide to go that route.

And even though Zach Parise is a forward, you have to think this will also drive his price up as well. 

After dealing for Wideman, Feaster went out and re-signed pending UFA Blake Comeau (also reported by the Flames' official website), whom he acquired from the New York Islanders last season. Comeau has seen his offensive production continue to dip and many predicted him signing a one-year "put up or shut up" deal with a team looking for some offense in its middle six.

Rather than letting him reach unrestricted free agency, however, Feaster re-signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million deal today. Remember, this is a supposedly offensive forward who managed only 15 points in 58 games for the Flames.

With so much salary locked up on its blue line and today's acquisitions, Calgary has yet again signaled to its fanbase that it is not rebuilding, which the franchise so desperately needs.

It seems the Flames are destined to finish between ninth and 12th in the West again, which means another mediocre first-round pick and more of the same in Calgary.

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