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 ESPNBoston.com 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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    Canucks recall Jordan Subban

    NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Jordan Subban, 84th pick overall by the Vancouver Canucks, poses for a portrait poses for a portrait  during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks have called up defenseman Jordan Subban from the AHL.

    Subban, the youngest brother of Nashville’s P.K. Subban, has nine goals and 13 assists in 34 games for the Utica Comets this season. The 21-year-old is not very big, and he’s had to work on his defensive play, but as his statistics suggest, he does have good offensive abilities.

    It remains to be seen if Subban will actually play for the Canucks, who host Florida tomorrow and then hit the road for a three-game road trip starting Sunday in Chicago. Vancouver also announced today that d-man Andrey Pedan has been reassigned to the AHL. Pedan’s 30-days waivers exemption was set to expire today; hence, that move.

    Subban is unlikely to get into the lineup unless Troy Stecher is unable to play. Stecher has reportedly been battling the flu and only logged 11:50 of ice time in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Nashville.

    The Canucks have three defensemen on injured reserve: Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton, and Philip Larsen.

    Related: Jordan Subban has ‘a great opportunity’ to prove himself to Canucks

    Flames healthy scratch slumping Bennett

    CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Sam Bennett #93 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    The tough times just got tougher for Sam Bennett.

    Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Flames host the Preds at the Saddledome, head coach Glen Gulutzan announced.

    The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.

    “It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”

    Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.

    Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.

    And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.

    But it’s been tough sledding ever since.

    The Kings need more from their ‘top guys’

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings reacts to a missed chance during a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    Darryl Sutter wants more from his “top guys.”

    In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.

    Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.

    “You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”

    Jeff Carter (23 goals) and Tanner Pearson (14) are the only Kings with double-digit goal totals this season. And with no Tyler Toffoli, it’s even more important that Kopitar and Gaborik start chipping in more regularly.

    Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.

    The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.

    It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.

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    Seth Griffith is on waivers….again

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Seth Griffith #24 of the Florida Panthers takes a shot on Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens during a game  at BB&T Center on December 29, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    Seth Griffith is on waivers again.

    The 24-year-old forward has only managed five assists in 21 games for the Florida Panthers since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Leafs had claimed Griffith off waivers from Boston at the beginning of the season.

    A prolific scorer at the AHL level (he had 77 points in 57 games for Providence last season), Griffith has just six goals and 10 assists in 58 career NHL games.

    Griffith has been a healthy scratch the past three games for the Panthers.