Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins hit a wall in contract talks; salary arbitration looms

blakewheelerarb.jpgWhen I think of Boston Bruins forward Blake Wheeler, I think of two things. First, I look back at his unfortunate situation with the Phoenix Coyotes, as the young player left the team in favor of the Bruins. On the bright side, I also think of his impressive (if unmatched) 2008-09 season in which he scored 21 goals and put up an astounding +36 rating. As the Bruins went, so did Wheeler’s rating being that he dropped all the way down to a -4 in 09-10.

(That’s a pretty clear testament to the common stats blogger belief that plus/minus is a flimsy stat.)

Considering Wheeler’s troubles with Phoenix – the team that drafted but couldn’t retain him – it’s not too surprising to read that the Bruins and Wheeler are at an impasse right now. James Murphy of ESPN Boston provides a little more information.

If the two sides do indeed go to arbitration, the Bruins will have three options once the award is handed down: They can accept the award; they can accept and then buy out another player’s contract in a 48-hour buyout period granted to the team; or they can walk away from the award, making Wheeler an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any other NHL team.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has exercised the walk-away option before when he chose that route in 2006 when defenseman David Tanabe was awarded a $1.275 deal from an arbitrator. With the Bruins up tight against the cap, having just $12,229 to spend under the $59.4 million NHL salary cap, chances are Chiarelli will have to either trade a player or use the buyout option to accommodate whatever award Wheeler may receive. He could also deal Wheeler, but Keator told last week that he didn’t expect that to happen.

With the Bruins hard against the cap, this could be a very interesting situation. Even with that buyout period, it could be difficult for Boston to honor the ruling. Stay tuned as the Wheeler scenario plays out over the next few days.

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    Rangers’ Klein exits with muscle strain, won’t return

    Kevin Klein

    The New York Rangers lost versatile d-man Kevin Klein early in the first period of their game against Carolina and, shortly after, announced he was done for the night.

    Klein played just 2:22 before leaving with a muscle strain. The injury forced the Blueshirts to use just five defensemen for the remainder of the evening — Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi.

    While it’s unclear how the injury occurred or how significant it is, Klein’s absence could be costly if it’s long-term. The 30-year-old was having a good year, with six points in 24 games, and saw his ice time go up to 21:03 per game from 18:29 last year.

    If Klein is out moving forward, it would present an opportunity for Dylan McIlrath to take up a bigger role on the New York defense.


    ‘It was a scary incident’: Colaiacovo returns to Sabres practice after dented trachea

    Carlo Colaiacovo
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    Carlo Colaiacovo‘s remarkably quick recovery from what appeared to be a serious injury continued on Monday, as he returned to practice roughly 48 hours after suffering a dented trachea.

    Colaicovo, who was hospitalized after taking a Viktor Arvidsson cross-check to the throat on Saturday, skated with his Buffalo teammates on Monday in advance of tomorrow’s game against Detroit.

    “I feel good,” Colaiacovo said, per the Sabres’ website. “Obviously it was a scary incident and at the time it was pretty painful but it is what it is.

    “Right now, it’s not really stopping me from doing much.”

    Though he said he’s still feeling pain in and around his throat, Colaiacovo is eligible to return to the Sabres’ lineup tomorrow.

    The 32-year-old, who has appeared in 15 games this season, would no doubt like to play tomorrow. It’d put him up against the same Detroit team that employed him during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, only to buy out his contract at the end of the year.

    Couture (fractured fibula) continues skating with Sharks, says return is on schedule

    Logan Couture
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    Some good news at Sharks practice today — Logan Couture continued to skate with teammates, just one week after returning to the ice from a broken leg suffered on Oct. 17.

    What’s more, Couture says he’s on schedule to meet the 4-6 week timetable for return.

    “[I’m] where I thought I would be at this point in time,” Couture said, per CSN Bay Area.

    While the 26-year-old wouldn’t put an exact date on his return, it’s clear both he and the Sharks are anxious for him to get back in the lineup — especially with the club surging, and Couture having only played in three regular-season contests this year.

    Looking ahead, there are some dates worth circling on the ol’ calendar.

    The Sharks have a relatively light week. After beating Calgary 5-2 on Saturday, they play just once in five days — Tuesday’s home tilt against the Penguins — before a weekend back-to-back set against the Ducks on Friday and Lightning on Saturday.

    The Ducks game is in Anaheim, but the following night’s contest against the Bolts is at the friendly confines of SAP. So that could be a potential date to watch for — but it is worth noting Couture said he’s still hesitant about getting into game action until his first step is back.

    “Until then, I’m not going to force my way out there and put myself in a bad spot,” he explained.

    Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

    Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler

    It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

    Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

    Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

    Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

    “If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

    “We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

    To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




    Depends who you ask.

    Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

    Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

    Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

    In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

    Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks